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NEW YORK—Without providing much in the way of specific dates or benchmarks, WellPoint Inc. Chief Information Officer Andrew J. Lang last week gave attendees of the Northeast Business Group on Health's 2012 conference and exposition in New York an update on the health insurer's progress in integrating the IBM Inc. Watson supercomputer with its patient databases.
Ultimately, WellPoint hopes to use Watson's intuitive software to support health care providers in making medical and clinical decisions with evidence-based diagnostics and treatment recommendations.
Mr. Lang told conference attendees that Watson is being woven into WellPoint's clinical and medical review processes across a range of medical disciplines, including oncology and outpatient care.
“The reason for that is that the work is all internal to WellPoint,” Mr. Lang said. “We can control it and work on it without outside interactions, and it was a great area for us to hammer through some challenges and build this great partnership with IBM on Watson and some of its surrounding systems.”
Named for Thomas J. Watson, IBM's founder, Watson's computing system mimics a human's ability to answer questions posed in natural language—accounting for meaning and context as well as factual information—with speed, accuracy and confidence.
Watson's capacity to quickly process massive amounts of data and use those calculations to evaluate a patient's circumstances—including medical history, genetics, biometric fluctuations and other factors—could assist physicians and nurses in arriving at more accurate diagnoses and effective treatment options, Mr. Lang said.
By integrating Watson into WellPoint's clinical and medical archives, the company will provide the computer with the empirical data it needs to begin evaluating and assisting in active cases, Mr. Lang said.
“That's what we're working on right now within the WellPoint walls, and you'll start to see that grow and expand outside WellPoint and into provider offices,” he said, though he was not specific as to when providers and consumers might expect to see the technology in the marketplace.
“I don't have firm dates on it yet, but it is in process right now,” Mr. Lang said. “It's a relatively near-term activity.”
NEW YORK—Companies looking to maximize the effectiveness of their employee wellness initiatives must be willing to incorporate new technologies and innovative program designs, a panel of experts said last week at the Northeast Business Group on Health's 2012 Health & Wellness Benefit Conference in New York.