Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dr Watson Takes on Healthcare

Watson Emerges Champion in Jeopardy

Watson emerged the Jeopardy Champion last night with a resounding $ 77,147, beating both competitors (Ken Jennings:$ 24,000 and Brad Rutter:$21,600) by over 300% ($53,147/$55,547).
Hats off to Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter for taking on the challenge and doing such a great job

This was followed today with the joint Nuance/IBM Press Release: "IBM to Collaborate with Nuance to Apply IBM’s Watson Analytics Technology to Healthcare" (here on IBM and Nuance's site) that recognizes the tremendous value that Watson can bring to healthcare. Watson showed last night the major advances that have been made by IBM's “Deep Question Answering” (QA) research team:
the ability of a computer to understand natural human speech inquiries that pertain to a limitless range of topics, and to make informed judgments about requests
There was plenty of coverage as evidenced by the 15 Million hits in Google for the search (Jeopardy/Watson) with the vast majority highlighting Watson's superiority (Time Magazine: Winner, Dr Watson I presume, ZDNet: Watson's Next Adventure - Healthcare with Nuance, Information Week: IBM Nuance Envision Watson Helping Doctors, NY Times: Computer Wins on Jeopardy, Trivial It's Not andIBM Moving Watson Supercomputer Beyond 'Jeopardy' To Health-Care. Stephen Wolfram of Wolfram Alpha weighed in with this thoughtful post (Jeopardy IBM and Wolfram Alpha) comparing Watson and Wolfram Alpha and this more light hearted post If Google Played Jeopardy: Smartest Search Engine, But It’s No Ken Jennings where he challenged search engines with the simplified task of entering the same Jeopardy Clues

Google showed well
Leading them to suggest that
Either he’s (Ken Jennings) an immediate acquisition candidate in Mountain View and Redmond, or he should just start his own search engine and answer queries as they come in
There were other dissenters including this post Could Google Play Jeopardy Like IBM's Watson. Google has certainly cornered search and access of data but even if the data can be found with a google search and there are certainly some shared concepts in the search technologies I'm not sure that finding the data in a search page is the same as answering the question and really understanding the question. But the summary and analysis of Natural Langauge:
Natural Language Reality Check: The reality is that the technology that Watson demonstrates, while amazing in a game show, is overkill for what most people need. Those behind “natural language” search technologies have long trotted out sentences like the “Who’s in the pajamas” example above to demonstrate how “smart” their search tools are. And yet, most searches people do on search engines are only two or three words long.
Missed the mark and the analogy is flawed on several counts.  I would suggest that our interactions are deliberately simplified when we interact with Google - we work around the lack of understanding of the Google search engine. And while Watson may be overkill for "most people" the potential application in multiple areas dealing with ever increasing volumes of unstructured data it is healthcare that has been struggling with the challenge of overwhelming clinical knowledge and our inability to access and apply this at the time of care delivery. In this discussion on the possible healthcare applications of Wtason/DeepQA

Dr Herbert Chase (Professor of Clinical of Medicine at Columbia University) says:
For at least 30 years it has been impossible for a physician to master all the material to practice medicine at the highest level. Biomedical literature has doubled in size every seven years but patients want those facts at the doctors finger tips when they see him (the doctor)
It is this challenge of data that clinicians face every day as they attempt to deliver the best possible care to each and every patient at the time of the consultation and something their patients expect. Definitely not overkill for patients or doctors and given the Tsunami of medical knowledge and the challenge of sharing clinical data. DeepQA will add a new level of medical intelligence to support to clinicians is with the application of Natural Language Processing taken to a new level of understanding.

Back in June I talked about this technology and the potential for application in healthcare (NLP in Healthcare). In October Nuance announced our strategic partnership with IBM and I covered the news in this post: Clinical Documentation Challenges and then again building towards the Jeopardy challenge NLP in Healthcare Part 2 and most recently this week as part of the potential solution to the challenge of shareable clinical data and clinical data models (The PCAST Opportunity, HL7 CDA, UEL and SAGE)

The announcement today builds on a deep research and technology partnership that already exists in multiple areas between the companies. As one person pointed out in a note to me yesterday
"I cannot understand that Watson cannot 'hear' an opponents wrong answer. They text in the question and then Watson parses the english, algorithms swirl, etc. However, when an opponent speaks it cannot hear. So when a bad answer is spoken it is bound to repeat it.. "
That is part of the innovation and solutions that Nuance will contribute to the partnership which will also include the Clinical Language Understanding (CLU) Technology that will be used create new solutions that provide hospitals, physicians and caregivers access to critical and timely information expanding from recognizing what was said and parsing data to now understanding the intent and providing guidance. This will push us one step closer to intelligent medical analysis real time with the clinician to assist hospitals to utilize facts and knowledge as they migrate toward evidence-based and accountable care models:
Recognizing the tremendous value that Watson can bring to healthcare, Nuance and IBM have teamed to co-develop solutions that will transform vast amounts of clinical data into actionable information across the continuum of care. This endeavor is intended to unlock important medical knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of data repositories, providing healthcare provider organizations, payers and individual physicians a new level of medical intelligence
It has been yet another exciting day in the world of healthcare technology

If you want to see the Jeopardy games you can watch them below
Part 1:

Part 2:

and Part 3:

And it is not just healthcare: