If a picture is worth a thousand words, then medical imaging data completely eclipses all other medical record information about a patient. With x-rays, MRI, and other digital imaging technology available to healthcare professionals, some radiologists must handle more than 100,000 images a day according to IBM Research. Still, most of the viewing and analysis of this data is done manually.
IBM hopes to change all that. The company plans to teach its Watson Health platform to read medical images. One key step is the acquisition of Merge Healthcare Incorporated, which has developed a medical imaging management platform. Adding this technology to Watson’s ability to cognitive and analytic abilities will produce a system that can handle the data from large numbers of medical images in the cloud, and extract information that will draw healthcare professionals’ attention to areas of particular interest. The system will be able to also draw on the patient’s records, as well as the records of other patients with similar conditions or health histories. Other information resources include clinical research results and genomic testing. IBM estimates that Watson is already able to draw on more than 315 billion data points in 90 million unique records. The goal is to provide faster, more accurate, and more personalized approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of patients’ health.
Watson was built from the ground up to tackle Big Data problems, and this new initiative by IBM could put this power to good use that will affect the health of individuals as well as the population as a whole.