IBM, Cleveland Clinic Put Watson to Work on Medical Training

Cleveland Clinic plans to use IBM's Watson technology to help train medical students on how to solve health care challenges.

IBM's Watson is headed to medical school. IBM and Cleveland Clinic are collaborating to use Watson's deep question-answer technology to help train students on how to come up with proper diagnoses and treatments for patients.

Founded in 1921, Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit academic medical center that integrates research and education.

Watson's ability to understand natural language and generate hypotheses will help medical professionals make clinical decisions, IBM reported.

IBM researchers and Cleveland clinicians, faculty and medical students will work together to apply Watson's deep question-answer technology to medicine.

Watson can analyze the meaning in human language and enable health professionals and medical students to uncover important medical facts in large volumes of data, IBM reported.

IBM and Cleveland Clinic announced their collaboration Oct. 30.

"Technology will never replace the doctor, but it can make us better," Dr. James Stoller, chair of the Education Institute at Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement.

Watson allows medical students to apply critical thinking for actual patient cases rather than memorizing information in textbooks, according to IBM. The technology finds evidence in reference materials and helps students come up with diagnoses and treatment options during their medical training.

"The practice of medicine is changing, and so should the way medical students learn," Dr. David Ferrucci, IBM fellow and principal investigator of the Watson project, said in a statement. "In the real world, medical case scenarios should rely on people's ability to quickly find and apply the most relevant knowledge."

IBM chose to work with Cleveland Clinic because of its focus on problem-based learning, said Ferrucci.

Watson will be part of Cleveland Clinic's problem-based learning curriculum to help students analyze hypothetical clinical simulations.

The machine-learning platform will be fed test questions from the United States Medical Licensing Exam, a requirement for every future doctor, according to The New York Times.

In addition to students benefiting from Watson's technology, students' clinical simulations will also enable IBM to further develop its Watson Path technology.

By analyzing Watson's answers, students will be able to improve Watson's language and domain analysis capabilities, IBM reported.

In addition, Watson will be able to provide a deep semantic understanding of data in electronic health records, IBM reported.

Cleveland Clinic is very progressive on how it approaches the medical school and teaches students, said Ferrucci.

"Watson represents the opportunity to integrate lots of information and to provide a probabilistic approach to diagnoses, which is really the way clinicians think," Dr. James Stoller, chair of the Education Institute at Cleveland Clinic, said in an IBM video. "But this will make it more explicit and will integrate the explosion of information available today about all kinds of diseases, all of which comes to bear at the bedside as we take care of our patients."

Watson will analyze large volumes of data to allow medical students to consider multiple factors that may affect a patient's condition. Students will be able to uncover evidence to come up with hypotheses to health problems and develop treatment options.

"Every day, physicians and scientists around the world add more and more information to what I think of as an ever-expanding, global medical library," Dr. C. Martin Harris, chief information officer of Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement. "Technology like this can allow us to leverage that medical library to help train our students and also find new ways to address the public health challenges we face today."