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IBM Watson Group CTO Discusses Cognitive Computing, Content Curation For Healthcare Market

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robhighby Jennifer Zaino

The role that cognitive computing can play in healthcare was explored last week in this story published at The Semantic Web Blog’s sister site Dataversity.net. That article looked at how Modernizing Medicine is leveraging IBM Watson for its new schEMA tablet app that helps doctors use the wealth of published medical research from highly reputable sources, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and New England Journal of Medicine, to answer their questions.

Today, we’re complementing that article to further explore such aspects of the health care and cognitive computing connection based on an email conversation with IBM Watson Group CTO Robert High. “IBM Watson is transforming the patient experience and healthcare delivery system by helping physicians make sense of the enormous amount of data generated by an increasingly connected healthcare environment,” High writes.

“Content curation is a critical part of the solution delivery process. Without reputable and reliable sources of medical literature, therapy choices offered by Watson may not have the supporting evidence needed to inform clinicians in the use of those treatments. We work with the top clinicians at our partners to collect their feedback on supporting evidence and cull inappropriate information from their sources.” IBM, along with its solutions partners, works with a variety of content providers based on the relevance of their materials to treatment options, he adds.

Regarding IBM’s strategy for leveraging content sources throughout the Watson ecosystem, High explains that the IBM Watson Developer Cloud provides Watson Ecosystem partners with the resources they need for developing Watson-powered apps, including a developer toolkit, educational materials, access to Watson’s application programming interface (API), and a network of third-party experts, designers, coders and providers of data-rich content. “To ensure apps are equipped to uncover data-driven insights for their users, application providers can use their own data, or access the IBM Watson Content Store, a cloud-hosted network featuring third-party content providers whose data-rich resources can fuel Watson’s ever expanding knowledge.” In fact, it’s a priority for the vendor to ensure that Watson app developers are aware of the IBM Watson Content Store, he says.

IBM Content Partners that have extensive amounts of data they want to share or monetize include organizations that have the rights to use and/or license general and domain-specific content; information-based organizations such as publishers, researchers, and even social forums; and organizations that provide access to conventional data sources, representing billions of pages, including reports, publications, call center recordings or product manuals, that could help fuel a new generation of cognitive apps, he says.

Content, Training Tools and Services Fueling Watson In Healthcare

One example of data-driven content that fuels Watson’s ever-growing knowledge is Healthline, a content partner within the Watson Ecosystem that provides intelligent health information, data and technology solutions, High says. “The company is providing its comprehensive, contextually relevant health reference library to enable the promotion of healthy lifestyles, support disease prevention, and offer clinically significant, medically reviewed health information to everyday people so they are able to make more confident healthcare decisions,” he writes.

“By making this content available in the content marketplace for the Watson Ecosystem, any ecosystem developer can subscribe to that content for use in their applications. In some cases, the content is provided in its original form, or in other cases content providers may offer value-added services by pre-ingesting and pre-training the content for use within the Watson DeepQA service.”

High says that tools are provided for ecosystem developers to ingest and train content they may leverage within their applications, and that in many cases the training process is relatively straight forward. In addition to IBM providing papers and training services to help ecosystem partners create their apps, it also has connected with talent partners, such as Elance, to provide skilled freelance resources for application developers needing additional assistance, from graphic design to programming help.

As a market segment, healthcare has been and remains a large focus for the IBM Watson Group, High says. “With the ability to interact in natural language, quickly process vast and disparate forms of big data and learn from each interaction, IBM Watson is a disruptive technology in the healthcare market,” he writes. “In fact, Watson technology’s first commercial use was by healthcare organizations Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and WellPoint, while the Watson Group’s first investment was in Welltok, a pioneer in digital health optimization technologies that is using IBM Watson to accelerate development of the CaféWell Concierge, a service that will offer individuals the ability to have personalized dialogue with Watson about activities, resources and health management programs that can help them optimize their health—and get rewards for healthy behavior.”

hippoThe IBM Watson Group also is working with healthcare leaders at Cleveland Clinic and MD Anderson, and with Watson Ecosystem partners – including Modernizing Medicine and MD Buyline – who are taking advantage of cognitive technology to create Watson-powered apps for healthcare. Of the work underway by Modernizing Medicine, High writes that it anticipates that it “will further advance the move toward personalized medicine. By integrating Watson’s cognitive capabilities, Modernizing Medicine’s schEMA app will strengthen physician’s treatment plans and enable them to practice evidence-based medicine more efficiently.”

As for MD Buyline, High says that the provider of supply chain solutions for hospitals and healthcare systems has developed an app, dubbed Hippocrates, to allow clinical and financial users to make real-time, informed decisions to improve quality, value, outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Watson Beyond Healthcare

High also provided other updates on how IBM Watson is being advanced to drive a new era of cognitive computing apps. Since the announcement last fall of IBM Watson as an application development platform in the cloud, nearly 2,500 individuals and organizations – ranging from start-ups and VC-backed companies to established players — have contacted IBM to share ideas for building cognitive applications that redefine how businesses and consumers make decisions, he says. Recently, IBM also announced its intention to open Watson to corporate developers, to advance a new generation of apps infused with Watson’s cognitive computing intelligence.

IBM also just announced a new partnership with multi-channel customer experience and contact center solutions provider Genesys, which will tap into Watson to address customer questions, trouble shoot problems and provide information based advice via mobile, chat or online interactions. In addition, High says, “the company will lead with Watson to power its existing and future applications across industries including banking, insurance, and retail. Genesys will integrate Watson to its award-winning Customer Experience Platform, empowering their customers with the ability to interact through a natural dialog leveraging Watson’s unparalleled understanding and intelligent natural language response.”

chegwatWord also came from IBM Monday of a new pilot app unveiled in conjunction with Bon Appétit, called “Chef Watson with Bon Appétit,” which will use cognitive computing to help chefs and cooks discover new dishes or ingredient combinations. To help with the discovery of new recipes, Watson ingested about 9,000 Bon Appétit recipes and combined this with its knowledge of what tastes people prefer, and how the chemistry of different ingredients interact.


Learn more about what’s going on with Watson at the new Cognitive Computing Forum, now open for registration and sponsorship.

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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