Looking to augment human decision making in health care, WellPoint Inc. says it will employ technology from IBM that is a commercial variant of the company's famed Watson project.

The health insurer says the same ability to answer questions posed in natural language the technology exhibited on the quiz show "Jeopardy!" will pay dividends in health care. WellPoint says Watson's ability to process vast amounts of information and analyze the meaning and context of human language can be used to assist physicians and nurses in diagnosis and identifying treatment options.

"There are breathtaking advances in medical science and clinical knowledge, however; this clinical information is not always used in the care of patients," said Sam Nussbaum, M.D., WellPoint's chief medical officer. "We believe this will be an invaluable resource for our partnering physicians and will dramatically enhance the quality and effectiveness of medical care they deliver to our members."

WellPoint envisions new applications will enable physicians to use Watson to consult patient medical histories, recent test results, recommended treatment protocols and the latest research findings and help physicians identify treatment options that balance the interactions of various drugs and narrow among a large group of treatment choices.

"The implications for health care are extraordinary," said Lori Beer, WellPoint's EVP of enterprise business services. "As one of the nation's largest health insurers, we have an important role to play in helping to improve health care quality. We believe new solutions built on the IBM Watson technology will be valuable for our provider partners, and more importantly, give us new tools to help ensure our members are receiving the best possible care."

This story first appeared on SourceMedia's Insurance Networking News site.


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