In August 2015, when the world was still contemplating the possible uses of artificial intelligence (AI), a team at Manipal Hospitals collaborated with IBM to bring about a breakthrough in cancer healthcare by implementing IBM Watson.
IBM Watson is a cognitive computing platform that has been taught by Memorial Sloan-Kettering, New York, USA. It analyses the patient data to give information on the possible treatment options, helping oncologists to treat cases of breast, colorectal and lung cancer with greater accuracy.
There have been extensive efforts around the globe to constantly evolve cancer research for better results. This also puts doctors under a lot of pressure to keep abreast with the latest findings and treatment methods while maintaining a huge amount of existing data and knowledge.
“IBM Watson plays a crucial role here. It ranks the various identified treatment options on the basis of their outcomes and similar use cases, and also provides links confirming evidence for each option. That helps oncologists to make the best choice to cure the case in hand. Watson for Oncology constantly learns from a very reliable and regularly updated repository of information—till date, more than 300 medical journals, 200 textbooks and over 15 million pages of text.”
“Watson for Oncology also delivers, for doctors’ consideration while treating a patient, related analysis in the form of administration information, as well as information regarding the different available drugs. Its cognitive learning ability lets it evolve all the time, so that the concerned doctors have access to peer reviewed studies, clinical guidelines and expert perspectives,” explains Venitha, managing director, IBM India.
Since the last one-and-a-half years, there has been an upsurge in the number of cases that have been successfully dealt with by doctors. Initially there was hesitation, but doctors are now willingly benefitting from their ‘intelligent virtual assistant.’
Before implementing Watson to regular use, a pilot project of six months was undertaken to test its worthiness for the treatment. Of the 200 test cases, only six per cent were found to be non-conforming, that is, the cases in which doctors’ recommendation was different from Watson’s.
“Watson continuously learns from the information shared on cases coming to the hospital—both related to data and doctors’ consultation. It has an amazing artificial conscience,” shares Venitha.
As a patient’s case is brought to a doctor, while Watson analyses the patient’s data and case history, the doctor provides the consultation and moral support. The final treatment is started with recommendations from both the doctor and Watson collaboratively.
The biggest concerns are about the safety of patients’ information shared with IBM’s platform and validity of treatments recommended.
While the government is yet to come up with a policy on safety, Manipal Hospitals maintains that they are using IBM’s supercomputing and cloud services for analyses. The patient’s record is owned by the hospital itself.
IBM Watson has been implemented as a monthly service structured and supported by the IBM cloud. To update Watson, two IBM employees have been stationed at the hospital. The maintenance of Watson is part of the contract and taken care of by IBM.
Artificial intelligence technology is all set to transform healthcare. IBM is one of the leaders, with most advanced system capabilities. Also, having a counter-intuitive resource base in the US brings about greater trust. Not just IBM but Manipal Hospitals is also seeking to expand the use of technology directly to patients across geographies, in order to enable better health care.