John Crawford: Artificial intelligence will augment the work of healthcare professionals
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The Healthcare Industry Leader at IBM Europe, presented “Transforming Healthcare with cognitive computing” at the event, Transforming healthcare – health policy, digital health and data privacy: Who pays the bill? at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue. The conference, hosted by Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and Emory Healthcare, explored best practice, economics and digital security in the healthcare industry.
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“Watson is what we call a cognitive system. Essentially, it's really graded in three things. It's fantastic at absorbing and organizing data, and extracting insights from that data. It allows you to generate hypotheses about, in answer to questions about that data. It learns. It's a machine learning system. It improves over time.
In health care, this is especially important because doctors are simply overloaded with the data that's being generated every day by new devices, by wearables, by medical records, by clinical trials, by journal publication on medicine. The real benefit using a cognitive system in health care is to help doctors and clinicians and nurses make better decisions, based on what Watson is able to gather from information about the patient and about the condition that's being treated.
Our intention's really not to replace the health care professional. It's more a question of augmenting what the professional's able to do. The way that we see this really becoming essential in the medical sphere is doctors turning to Watson to use it as a way of getting a second opinion or basically checking their own diagnosis. Checking their own prognosis. Checking their own treatment plans. We don't see it replacing the doctor. Now, there are algorithms that you can use, obviously, to help, let's say, people in a call center to talk with an individual about symptoms and about what may be the problem. Really, the focus of the Watson solutions is an augmentation of professional skills, rather than replacing them completely.
We have to build AI into the work flow of the coalition. We have to give them confidence that this is something which actually enhances what they're doing for the patients. In the end, we have to show that it actually improves patient outcomes. We need the organisations that we're working with to look into what results they're getting and to publish that. I think until we've got this really compelling evidence that Watson's actually improving outcomes for patients, it's going to be, I guess, not fully adopted. Not adopted to the extent that it could be in medicine.”