September 12, 2011
WellPoint To Use IBM’s Watson Supercomputer
IBM's supercomputer system Watson is being used by one of the largest health insurers in the U.S. to help diagnose medical problems and authorize treatments.
The supercomputer, which became famous for beating "Jeopardy!" players on TV, is being integrated at WellPoint Inc. to help choose treatment options and medicines for its 34.2 million members.
"This very much fits into the sweet spot of what we envisioned for the applications of Watson," Manoj Saxena, general manager of an IBM division looking at how the computer can be marketed, said in a statement.
The WellPoint application will combine data from three sources, including a patient's chart and electronic records that a doctor or hospital has, the insurance company's history of medicine and treatments, and Watson's huge library of textbooks and medical journals.
IBM said the computer can sift through it all and answer a question in moments, as well as help provide several possible diagnosis or treatments.
"Imagine having the ability within three-seconds to look through all of that information, to have it be up to date, scientifically presented to you, and based on that patients' medical needs at the moment you're caring for that patient," WellPoint's chief medical officer, Dr. Sam Nussbaum, said in a statement.
Lori Beer, vice president of WellPoint, said patients do not need to worry that Watson will be used to help insurers deny benefits.
"We're really trying to bring providers a tool that's successful, that helps drive better outcomes, which is how we want to reimburse physicians in the future," Beer said in a statement.
WellPoint is the largest publicly traded health insurer in the U.S. and operates in 14 states, including New York and California.
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