IBM’s Watson first role in frontline healthcare will be to serve as a combination lung cancer specialist and expert in the branch of health insurance known as utilization management.
Thanks to a business partnership among IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint, health care providers will now be able to tap Watson’s expertise in deciding how to treat patients.
Pricing was not disclosed, but hospitals and health care networks who sign up will be able to buy or rent Watson’s advice from the cloud or their own server. Over the past two years, IBM’s researchers have shrunk Watson from the size of a master bedroom to a pizza-box-sized server that can fit in any data center. Processing speed has been improved by 240%. Now what was once was a fun computer-science experiment in natural language processing is becoming a real business for IBM and Wellpoint, which is the exclusive reseller of the technology for now. Initial customers include WestMed Practice Partners and the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine & Blood Disorders.