In Terms Of Healthcare, It’s Elementary My Dear Watson


We are just beginning to see the potential benefits associated with IBM’s Watson. As many of you may recall the supercomputer was able to beat some of the more seasoned veterans on the “Jeopardy” game show recently, creating significant waves in not only the world of entertainment, but also information technology. I don’t know about you, but I thought that it was amazing to see the look on the faces of the contestants when the seemingly impossible happened. How was it possible for a computer to decipher and determine the correct meaning of the questions typically posed on Jeopardy?

We are now beginning to see practical uses for this ingenuity. IBM has linked up with another innovator in the world of communications and technology, Nuance Communications, to provide analytic capability similar to that seen in the Watson prototype. Speech recognition will link up with the capability of the supercomputer to enable healthcare organisations to decipher considerable amounts of data using natural language processing capacity. In the future, physicians will be able to answer complicated questions by processing billions of bytes of information contained in books, periodicals, reports and medical notes. This will make it a lot easier for the professionals to come to conclusions relating to patient conditions and complicated problems.


It’s great to see this technology emerging into the field of healthcare and helping to deal with problems which are, of course, very close to our hearts. Looking sideways into the world of business in general, it’s estimated that as many as four out of every five chief information officers view this level of analytical research and combined intelligence processing as significant priorities going forward.

It’s also interesting to draw an analogy relating to what Watson was able to achieve by looking at problems and issues in context, with what the search engines are trying to do in order to make a searcher’s experience more fruitful. In the relatively near future, when the search engines are instantly able to tell whether a presented web page is highly informative, marginal or downright spam, you have to know that the world of search engine optimisation is going to be turned on its ear.

In the meantime, we should pay a lot of attention to IBM, Watson and Nuance as they strive to make inroads into the complexities of the healthcare information field. I think that when it comes to information crunching, we’re about to see some huge and potentially highly beneficial changes come our way.

Martha Christie is a Marketing Evangelist for Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow us on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.

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