IBM Corp. will work with Nuance Communications and two universities to develop and commercialize the analytics capabilities of its Watson supercomputer for the health care environment.

Watson is the computer that decisively beat "Jeopardy" champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter during a recent exhibition.

IBM will combine Watson's capabilities with Nuance's speech recognition and clinical language understanding technology to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, and offer advanced data analytics and search capabilities to providers and insurers.

Nuance's clinical language understanding technology enables a computer to read and understand text and abstract data, according to the vendor. For example, if a voice note or dictated medical transcription describes a gall bladder inflammation, this can be interpreted as the medical term "cholecystitis" so that the patient record accurately reflects the diagnosis.

Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine will collaborate with the vendors. Physicians at the schools are tackling such issues as how best to apply the technology and how to have the technology properly interact with human clinicians.

The vendors expect the first commercial products to be available within 18 to 24 months. More information on Watson is available here.

--Joseph Goedert


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