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Super computing could help manage enormous amounts of medical information

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Watson, the IBM supercomputer, is best known for its historic win on the television game show, Jeopardy. But, the same components that made the system a quiz show winner could be redirected toward lowering the cost of health care in upstate New York.

According to Steve Gold, vice president for IBM’s Watson Solutions division, the amount of available medical knowledge doubles every five years. While that can provide a challenge for individual physicians to keep up with, it’s something Watson thrives on.

Gold says Watson’s ability to sift through and interpret large amounts of data has already been used to speed up the timeline for bringing new therapies to market.

In one case the development time was cut from three years, to just 10 months.

“Think about the implications of that, being able to advance the rate at which new therapies are brought to market, and then understand how those therapies apply to a specific patient’s circumstances," Gold said. "We think it’s a game changer.”

On the business side, Gold says health care is unsustainable but Watson could increase personalized medical care at lower cost, and help to streamline the medical system while helping to prevent expensive mistakes and re-admissions.

He says the technology presents an avenue through which the quality of medical care could be improved on a global scale.

“Technology affords an opportunity to be truly ubiquitous in access, taking the opportunity to provide better care for everybody across the globe,” Gold said.

The University of Rochester is currently in talks with IBM to assess the potential for collaboration between Watson’s supercomputing power and health care providers in upstate New York.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail