Watson Health Cloud revolutionizes medicine


Jade Cohen ’17

It is often reassuring to know that doctors frequently confer with their colleagues to confirm the diagnoses and treatment plans that impact our fundamental well-being. As the technological realm advances, however, it may be a supercomputer with cognitive computing abilities that acts as an advisor to the physicians we interact with on a daily basis. Given that this seeming robot can increase the accuracy of diagnoses, offer improved treatment plans, and streamline medical care throughout the industry, we should learn to trust this newfound “medical mind” as a reliable healthcare professional.
In recent years, doctors have increased efforts to weave new scientific developments into their medical school knowledge to improve diagnoses and treatment plans. With 2.5 million scientific papers published annually, according to wired.com, however, it would take an estimated 160 hours of reading per week for doctors to sift through material as it is published, much less comprehend, retain, and apply it to their practices, according to wired.co.uk.

Jade Cohen '17
Jade Cohen ’17

Enter Watson Health Cloud: an application of the International Business Machine Corporation (IBM) supercomputer, which synthesizes vast amounts of medical information into one centralized thinking hub in the Cloud. Watson made its debut in 2011 on the game show Jeopardy!, but its ability to find answers in the 80 percent of unstructured health data that is not stored in a database, and thus invisible to current systems, allows this supercomputer to revolutionize the medical field, according to ibm.com. Through what IBM calls “a new partnership between technology and humanity,” according to ibm.com, the Health Cloud bridges the knowledge gap that prevents doctors from applying the most up-to-date information, according to wired.com. 
“I would love it if a machine could act as my reliable and smart memory,” New York medical resident Mr. Setareh Alipour said, according to wired.com.
Medical data doubles every three years, but Watson has the ability to consolidate medical records, clinical trials, research, and real-time data from personal fitness bands and implanted devices. Watson then transforms this data by combining traditional analytics with cognitive abilities to output knowledge pertinent to a particular case, such as recommended treatment plans and medicines. Specifically, Watson possesses the ability to tailor its analysis over time based on its evolving learning capabilities, according to the video “How it Works: IBM Watson Health.” 
Doctors utilize applications created from the Watson Health Cloud to track all medical information in one place, such as patient medical and family history from other doctors and insurance providers, as well as real-time data from sensors, such as Fitbits. As a result, doctors easily follow developments in particular cases over time, according to the video “How it Works: IBM Watson Health.” 
The prospect of receiving medical services and advice from a computer, as opposed to a nurturing and knowledgable physician, can be daunting. Recognizing that the Watson Health Cloud has a nearly uncapped storage capacity for medical data, however, should be sufficient to silence such objections. 
In fact, Watson is capable of reading 200 million pages of text in only three seconds according to ibm.com. Thus, this supercomputer never falls behind on reading the latest medical publications and can access and analyze all possible resources in a single place. This level of competency is simply unrealistic for even the most talented doctors due to the limitations of humanity.
Acting analogous to an ecosystem, Watson combines massive amounts of data and brings together researchers, doctors, patients, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance providers in a secure and open system. Given that Watson’s success depends on consolidating data from patients with similar conditions, IBM ensures that personal information is kept private and anonymous through a process called de-identification, according to the video “How it Works: IBM Watson Health.” With the eradicated fear of personal medical records being revealed, patients can reap the benefits of Watson’s superior medical analysis.
Watson is reimagining the healthcare world by increasing medical advancements, improving patient outcomes, and making doctors more confident and accountable in their treatments, according to the video “How it Works: IBM Watson Health.” For example, Watson for Oncology is an application expert oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center developed. This application enables Watson to draw from papers, patient data, and clinical trials to help cancer doctors stay updated in their field and better support cancer patients, according to wired.com
Watson for Oncology is just the beginning. As IBM continues to refine Watson’s cognitive abilities, society is reaching a point where “it won’t be the robots thinking like humans, but the humans learning to think like robots,” according to wired.co.uk. Therefore, as patients in a healthcare system that is constantly developing, placing our trust in the Watson Health Cloud can increase efficiency, accuracy, and expertise in the medical field. 
– Jade Cohen, Content Editor