Remember Watson? The supercomputer made star status when it competed on the game show Jeopardy. Now, IBM and Cleveland Clinic are collaborating to give Watson a new assignment: helping healthcare workers make faster decisions.
The IBM researchers who created Watson will work with Cleveland Clinic clinicians, faculty and medical students to build up the capabilities of Watson's Deep Question Answering technology in the medical field. The goal is to unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information.
"Every day, physicians and scientists around the world add more and more information to what I think of as an ever-expanding, global medical library," said C. Martin Harris, M.D., chief information officer of Cleveland Clinic. "Cleveland Clinic's collaboration with IBM is exciting because it offers us the opportunity to teach Watson to 'think' in ways that have the potential to make it a powerful tool in medicine. Technology like this can allow us to leverage that medical library to help train our students and also find new ways to address the public health challenges we face today."
Tapping Watson's Strengths
Instead of trying to memorize everything in textbooks and medical journals -- now acknowledged as an impossible task -- students are learning through doing. In other words, students are taking patient case studies, analyzing them, coming up with hypotheses, and then finding and connecting evidence in reference materials and the latest journals to identify diagnoses and treatment options in the context of medical training.
That's one of Watson's core strengths. As part of the collaboration, medical students will interact with Watson on challenging cases as part of a problem-based learning curriculum and in hypothetical clinical simulations. A collaborative learning and training tool that taps Watson technology will help the students learn the process of navigating the latest content, suggesting and considering a variety of hypotheses and finding key evidence to support potential answers, diagnoses and possible treatment options.
"The practice of medicine is changing and so should the way medical students learn," said Dr. David Ferrucci, IBM Fellow and principal investigator of the Watson project. "In the real world, medical case scenarios should rely on people's ability to quickly find and apply the most relevant knowledge. Finding and evaluating multi-step paths through the medical literature is required to identify evidence in support of potential diagnoses and treatment options."
Students Make Watson Smarter
For their part, students will help improve Watson's language and domain analysis capabilities by judging the evidence it provides and analyzing its answers within the domain of medicine. The collaboration will also focus on leveraging Watson to process an electronic medical record (EMR) based on a deep semantic understanding of the content within an EMR.
IBM expects Watson will get "smarter" about medical language and how to assemble good chains of evidence from available content. Students will learn how to focus on critical thinking skills and how to best leverage informational tools like Watson in helping them learn how to diagnose and treat patients.
"New discoveries and medical breakthroughs are growing our collective knowledge of medicine at an unprecedented pace, and tomorrow's doctors will have to embrace new tools and technology to complement their own knowledge and experience in the field," said James Stoller, M.D., chair of the Education Institute at Cleveland Clinic. "Technology will never replace the doctor, but it can make us better. Our students and faculty are excited to play a role in getting us there."