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IBM, Nuance Partner on Bringing 'Watson' into Healthcare

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – IBM and Nuance Communications today announced a partnership to explore developing the analytical capabilities of IBM's super computer Watson for applications in the healthcare field and a potential role in personalized medicine.

The effort will combine IBM's Deep Question Answering, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning capabilities with Nuance's speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding solutions. The partners believe the combined technologies can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients by providing hospitals, physicians, and payers access to critical and timely information.

For example, they said that a physician consider a patient diagnosis could use their combined technologies to "rapidly consider all the related texts, reference materials, prior cases, and latest knowledge in journals and medical literature to gain evidence from many more potential sources than previously possible."

The firms expect the first commercial offerings from the collaboration to be available in 18-24 months.

Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine also are contributing their medical expertise and research to the collaboration, IBM and Nuance said in a joint statement.

"We are excited at the prospect of applying the Watson analytics technology to help create the next generation of electronic medical record systems and the next generation of computer diagnostic and decision support tools," Eliot Siegel, director of the Maryland Imaging Research Technologies Laboratory at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in the statement. "We believe that this has the potential to usher in a new era of computer assisted personalized medicine into healthcare to improve diagnostic accuracy, efficiency, and patient safety."

IBM's Watson was featured on the television trivia game show Jeopardy this week, beating its two human rivals to win the highly publicized three-day challenge.