But, Can Watson Code?

WellPoint has hired Watson, IBM’s game show-dominating technology, to assist the health insurer in two pilot programs: one for clinical purposes and another for care management.

Eyeing the room-sized computer as a way to keep costs down and improve patient care, WellPoint is impressed by the system’s ability to process human language and research the equivalent of a million books. WellPoint believes the computer has the ability to analyze key data points and suggest the most diagnosis and treatment options for complex cases in three seconds or less, but the payer assures the machine won’t usurp physicians’ decisions.

“Doctors make decisions for patients,” said Sam Nussbaum, MD, Well Point’s chief medical officer. Amednews.com says, however, physician use of clinical decision support tools has risen significantly in recent months, mostly due to requirements under the meaningful use incentive program requiring decision support to be part of electronic health record (EHR) systems eligible for federal money.

A California health care foundation found 72 percent of physician practices in California have implemented decision support tools, including 58 percent of solo practices.

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