Cognitive computing for health care is just what the doctor ordered

Systems like IBM Watson can instantly seam through billions of terabytes of data like medical histories, clinical trial information and journals to aid in diagnosis and treatment

Updated: Jun 2, 2016 04:00:40 PM UTC
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Cognitive computing is the simulation of human thought processes by cognitive systems. Cognitive computing systems interact with humans and learn from every interaction. They help humans make better decisions by providing insights. These insights are derived using big data cognition i.e. by crunching, analysing and identifying patterns in large, complex, structured and unstructured data sets.

Cognitive computing has a huge role to play in health care in India. Let’s consider the problem of cancer. Age-adjusted incidence rates of cancer, which were traditionally low in a demographically young country have been steadily increasing in recent years. Cancer claims an estimated 7,00,000 lives annually, making it the second biggest cause of death after heart diseases1 .

Twenty eight women die in Uttar Pradesh daily of cervical cancer, which, if diagnosed early, is treatable2 . According to the World Health Organization, India has just one doctor for every 1,600 people, placing a huge burden on medical practitioners3. A large number of cases aren’t detected, are under-diagnosed or deaths due to cancer aren’t registered, making the situation more alarming.

Cognitive systems like the industry’s leading cognitive capability IBM Watson4 , can help improve the quality of cancer care. It can help an oncologist sift through vast volumes of data in minutes which would have normally taken days or, at times, weeks. This is possible because of Watson’s ability to instantly analyse billions of terabytes of data like medical histories, clinical trial information, journals etc.

IT companies need to embrace the challenge of developing cognitive systems for the Indian health care market. Cognitive Application Program Interfaces (APIs) are now available on the cloud for companies to build applications. Cognitive systems become better with each interaction; hence more the number of applications and systems, the closer we are to solving the health care issues of India and the rest of the world.

- By Rama Chandra (Ram) Dash, Business Unit Leader, IBM Watson Health, India Software lab.

External References: 1.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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