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IBM, Nuance to Use 'Watson' Technology for Healthcare Informatics Resource

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IBM and Nuance Communications have agreed to combine their technologies to help physicians more accurately diagnose and treat their patients.

The firms will combine technology that IBM developed for its Watson system, including deep question answering, natural language processing, and machine learning capabilities, with Nuance's speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding solutions.

IBM developed Watson to compete against humans in the television quiz show Jeopardy. The system is able to analyze the meaning and context of human language and quickly process information, which is expected to help physicians and nurses "unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information, and offer answers they may not have considered to help validate their own ideas or hypotheses," the companies said.

John Kelly, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, noted that the combined technologies will enable healthcare professionals "accomplish everyday tasks ... smarter and more efficiently."

Paul Ricci, chairman and CEO of Nuance, expressed similar sentiments. "The solutions we are developing with IBM will transform the capture, flow and use of clinical data, empowering healthcare organizations to drive smarter, more efficient clinical and business decisions," he said.

As part of the collaboration, investigators at Columbia University and the University of Maryland will identify specific medical practice issues where Watson's technology may be able to contribute to as well as ways that the combined solution would offer the most benefit to physicians.

"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," said Eliot Siegel, director of the Maryland Imaging Research Technologies Laboratory at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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

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