Mayo Clinic and IBM have announced plans to pilot Watson, the company’s cognitive computer, to match patients more quickly with appropriate clinical trials.

A proof-of-concept phase is currently underway, with the intent to introduce it into clinical use in early 2015. According to IBM executives, enrollment in general could be increased by the Watson project.

Many clinical trials at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere are not completed due to lack of sufficient enrollment. In spite of well-organized efforts, even at Mayo Clinic, just five percent of patients take part in studies. Nationally, the rate is even lower, at three percent.

Mayo hopes to raise clinical trial involvement to include up to 10 percent of its patients. Researchers say the higher participation also should improve the quality of research outcomes.

To ensure Watson has the required expertise to assist with clinical trial matching, Mayo experts are working with IBM to expand Watson’s corpus of knowledge to include all clinical trials at Mayo Clinic and in public databases, such as ClinicalTrials.gov. The new Watson system is being trained to analyze patient records and clinical trial criteria in order to determine appropriate matches for patients.

This version of Watson will be especially designed for Mayo Clinic. As it progresses in its tasks and matures through this collaboration, IBM executives believe it will learn more about the clinical trials matching process, become even more efficient, and likely more generalizable. Watson also may help locate patients for hard-to-fill trials, such as those involving rare diseases.

At any given time, Mayo Clinic conducts more than 8,000 human studies.

Originally published by Health Data Management.

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