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Jeopardy champion computer to be used in healthcare services

by Kelly MacNeil on February 21, 2011

IBM's supercomputer Watson, who first caught the country's attention when it won a recent Jeopardy match against human competitors, will now be taking on a more complicated task – the needs of patients in hospitals, according to Computer World.

Specifically, Watson will be used to quickly analyze vast stores of data concerning patient healthcare records. This could in turn lead to better and faster diagnoses of diseases, as well as treatments.

"Combining our analytics expertise with the experience and technology of Nuance, we can transform the way that healthcare professionals accomplish everyday tasks by enabling them to work smarter and more efficiently," John E. Kelly III, director of IBM Research, told the news provider. "This initiative demonstrates how we plan to apply Watson's capabilities into new areas, such as healthcare with [speech recognition software developer] Nuance."

Watson will help doctors review past cases so that they can make more effective decisions. Currently, physicians write about a patient's unique needs and hand it off to other medical personnel, who then has to take time to analyze all the information.

"Just as Watson collects information and understands the questions on 'Jeopardy' – the subtlety of the puns – it looks at the language, understands what it really means and can bring information from the vast array of health care literature that is relevant to the physician's and patient's joint effort to come up with a proper diagnosis," Dr. Marty Cohn, associate director of IBM Health Analytics, told eWeek.

She added that Watson's capabilities may be the most exciting, new technology in the healthcare field since she first started 40 years ago.

IBM expects to finish the enhancements to the supercomputer in 18 to 24 months. At the moment, the device has 2880 Power 7 cores that can run at a speed of up to 80 tera flips. It has 500G bps of on-chip bandwidth and 15 terabytes of memory, states the news source.

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