Six new health-related initiatives for IBM's Watson

By Jonah Comstock
10:37 am

LifeLearn IBM WatsonSince IBM launched its Watson Health business unit last month, the company has been busy, announcing a flurry of partnerships and deployments of its cognitive computing software in different sectors of the healthcare industry. Most of these announcements came out at the World of Watson symposium the company recently held in New York City. Here's a roundup of what Watson has been up to.

IBM Watson partners with Mayo Clinic, Epic: Watson's cognitive computing platform will integrate with Epic's EHR, allowing doctors to use Watson for clinical decision support in the way that some cancer centers already do. The technology could help "develop patient treatment protocols, personalize patient management for chronic conditions, and intelligently assist doctors and nurses by providing relevant evidence from the worldwide body of medical knowledge, putting new insight into the hands of clinical staff," IBM wrote in a release. Although the integration is being tested at the Mayo Clinic, it could be rolled out to other Epic customers in the future.

"Accessing Watson's virtual brainpower from the Epic platform is energizing from a creative standpoint," Epic president Carl Dvorak said in a statement. "We are bringing another level of cognitive computing and augmented intelligence to mainstream healthcare, to improve safety and outcomes for patients globally."

IBM collaborates with more than a dozen cancer institutes: Cancer was the first health area for Watson, and with the new Watson Health business unit, IBM is continuing to focus on it. IBM will help the institutes derive personal insights from cancer patients' DNA, a process IBM says Watson can reduce from "weeks to minutes".

"Determining the right drug combination for an advanced cancer patient is alarmingly difficult, requiring a complex analysis of different sources of big data that integrates rapidly emerging clinical trial information with personalized gene sequencing," Dr. Norman Sharpless, director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a statement. "We are partnering with IBM in an effort to solve this decision problem with the help of cognitive technology and to improve the decisions we make with our patients to maximize their chance for cure."

In addition to the University of North Carolina, initial partners in the trial include Ann & Robert H Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, BC Cancer Agency, City of Hope, Cleveland Clinic, Duke Cancer Institute, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, Nebraska, McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, New York Genome Center, Sanford Health, University of Kansas Cancer Center, University of Southern California Center for Applied Molecular Medicine, University of Washington Medical Center, and Yale Cancer Center.

Colorado health system Centura Health adopts Cafewell Concierge: Cafewell Concierge, an app powered by Watson and built by Welltok, will be rolled out at the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the first provider group to offer the app. Cafewell Concierge is an interactive, conversational interface that can help patients with questions about daily health management, cardiac rehabilitation exercises and activities, finding healthy recipes and dishes at local restaurants, educate them about their condition, and connect them to patient social networks.

Talkspace uses Watson to help match patients with therapists: Talkspace is a text message-based therapy startup. It will use IBM's Watson to analyze customers' text messages and attempt to draw insights about their personality that will help match them to the best possible therapist on the platform.

LifeLearn applies Watson to veterinary medicine: A new Watson-powered mobile app, Sofie, will help veterinarians identify potential conditions and practice evidence-based medicine in the treatment of animals. The Aberdeen Veterinary Clinic is already using the software. uses Watson to improve patient engagement:'s Patient Insights app, powered by Watson "analyzes patient interactions to tailor future engagement based on personality insights" according to an IBM press release. Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis is trying the app out already.


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