AI Saving the World: How IBM Watson is Revolutionizing Healthcare

Combining the worlds of Artificial Intelligence, gigantic volume of data on millions of cancer patients and the expertise of the world’s top oncologists, Watson has made available the latest of cancer treatment to patients all over the world

The word “cancer” is a word that no one wants to hear when they talk to their doctor. The word brings forth an image of struggle, desperation and unhappiness. Cancer doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, young and old or white and black. However, the best cancer treatment is not available for everyone. 

Ashley is a 12 year old kid living in rural Alabama, a daughter of a single high school teacher and suffering from a rare form of blood cancer hopes to get treated by top-notch doctors at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 

The vision of IBM Watson Health is to increase hope for cases like Ashley. Combining the worlds of Artificial Intelligence, gigantic volume of data on millions of cancer patients and the expertise of the world’s top oncologists, Watson can make available the latest of cancer treatment to patients all over the world. The access to top notch expertise and treatment options would not be limited to a lucky few.

Watson Health has created numerous partnerships with leading healthcare providers to create offerings designed to democratize the health care industry and bring quality health care to everyone. Let us look at a few of these initiatives and offerings:


1. Watson for Genomics

Watson for Genomics

Just as every cancer patient is unique, so are their cancers. On average, only 25% of patients benefit from the first drug that is offered for their treatment. To create unique and effective treatment plans for individual cancer cases, IBM has teamed up with Quest Diagnostics to analyze genetic alterations within the sequenced tumor. This helps to identify potentially treatable mutations and can help oncologists identify uniquely targeted treatment plans for each patient’s individual cancer. It can also greatly reduce the chances of treatment switching and help identify clinical trials for which the patient may be eligible based on the tumor’s genetic landscape.

The increased accuracy can result in saving many more lives and also reduce healthcare costs through the reduction of ineffective treatment plans. Just as the world is changing because of shared economy (Uber and Airbnb), the collective genomics data from millions of cancer patients can increasingly increase the accuracy of future diagnosis and treatment plans.


2. Watson for Oncology

Watson for Oncology

There is a ton of experience that the world’s leading oncologists have and that experience is what results in the best treatment for their patients. Since, there are very limited number of such experts, the benefit of top-notch expertise is not scalable. By partnering with top oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer, these doctors can train Watson Health to provide scalability to their skills and experience, thereby making them available to the entire world.

The acquisition of Truven Health Analytics by IBM makes them the owner of the largest repository of healthcare data. The combination of unstructured data analysis and cognitive computing makes IBM’s offerings the world’s best answer to the healthcare challenges of cancer.


3. Watson for Drug Discovery

Watson for Drug Discovery

An important component of the high healthcare cost is the investment costs for new drug discovery. Less than 12% of new drug projects result in a viable and effective product for the marketplace. This involves enormously complex and time-consuming process, research, development and trials. Cognitive computing can help life sciences companies mitigate risk, accelerate drug development and reduce costs.

In an analysis of Darapladib, a medication developed by Human Genome Sciences (now part of GlaxoSmithKline) a team of British and Chinese researchers used genomic data mining and intelligent analytics to broaden and confirm the results of human trials. They designed Darapladib to inhibit lipoprotein associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2). Lp-PLA2 circulates with cholesterol and, in high levels, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This pioneering approach can create a faster, lower-cost way to evaluate the efficacy of some medications.


4. Watson as a Doctor’s assistant

Watson for Drug Discovery

Researchers approximate that images account for 90% of medical data. With IBM’s acquisition of Merge, what is available for doctors is an augmented intelligence system that can highlight the potential trouble spots within the images and make it available for doctors in the final diagnosis. This can substantially reduce the analysis time and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the diagnostic process.


5. Watson as a Wellness guide

IBM partners with Under Armour

The recent collaboration between IBM and Under Armour has created a new breed of wearables called HealthBox. By feeding nutrition, training, and sleep information into Watson, it’s able to understand data in large volumes, make recommendations, and continuously learn.

They say that prevention is better than cure and proactive care of health can be the best healthcare solution.  By using customized cognitive intelligence to improve wellness, you now have your trainer and health coach strapped right on your wrist.

As you can see from a few examples given above, Watson Health is leading the world in a new era of healthcare, which not only brings the best of healthcare in the hands of everyone but also creates a new potential for unlimited collaboration between healthcare providers and experts. 

The biggest problems of healthcare can only be solved when there is a platform to collaborate and leverage the domain experience of experts.  IBM thru Watson aims to do just that. By working together, it leverages the best brains and the best technology so we can conquer humanity’s biggest challenge on health.


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