September 12, 2011 – Health care benefits provider WellPoint Inc. has reached an agreement with IBM to create the first commercial application of Watson, Big Blue’s information crunching supercomputer that was featured on TV quiz show “Jeopardy!”

WellPoint will develop and release a solution based on Watson’s analytics capabilities for up-to-date and evidence-based health care information, the Indiana-based company stated in a release Monday. The new solution would sift and sort millions of pages of health care data from sources such as recent findings, treatment protocols, privacy standards and patient histories to pinpoint a likely diagnosis and treatment possibilities, the release stated.

Sam Nussbaum, M.D., WellPoint’s Chief Medical Officer said in a release that Watson gives a new toolkit for connecting medical advances with clinical knowledge.

"Imagine having the ability to take in all the information around a patient's medical care – symptoms, findings, patient interviews and diagnostic studies. Then, imagine using Watson analytic capabilities to consider all of the prior cases, the state-of-the-art clinical knowledge in the medical literature and clinical best practices to help a physician advance a diagnosis and guide a course of treatment," said Nussbaum.

Based on the progress of development of the new solution, WellPoint plans to put the Watson technology to use by early 2012, according to a news release.

After years of exhaustive and expensive production, IBM introduced Watson earlier this year against human champions in a trio of episodes of “Jeopardy!” Watson’s unique language data comprehension and search enabled the computer to dominate the contest. Health care, along with education, was one of the fields IBM championed Watson’s possible uses in, though there were few real-life applications until the WellPoint announcement.

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