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Wellpoint, IBM Announce Partnership Using Watson Technology

The computing system made famous during its run on Jeopardy! will help the health insurer with a physician-facing solution.

Indianapolis-based health insurer WellPoint is developing patient care solutions for doctors using the Watson technology from Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, the companies announced today.

IBM will develop the base Watson healthcare technology that will run which WellPoint's solution. The carrier envisions a way to help physicians identify the most likely diagnosis and treatment options for complex cases by coordinating medical data with specified patient factors.

"Imagine having the ability to take in all the information around a patient's medical care -- symptoms, findings, patient interviews and diagnostic studies. Then, imagine using Watson analytic capabilities to consider all of the prior cases, the state-of-the-art clinical knowledge in the medical literature and clinical best practices to help a physician advance a diagnosis and guide a course of treatment," Sam Nussbaum, M.D., WellPoint's chief medical officer, says in a statement. "We believe this will be an invaluable resource for our partnering physicians and will dramatically enhance the quality and effectiveness of medical care they deliver to our members."

Watson is also expected to streamline communication between a patient's physician and their health plan, helping to improve efficiency in clinical review of complex cases, the companies say. WellPoint anticipates using the first Watson-based technology in early 2012.

"The implications for health care are extraordinary," Lori Beer, WellPoint's executive vice president of Enterprise Business Services, says in a statement. "As one of the nation's largest health insurers, we have an important role to play in helping to improve health care quality. We believe new solutions built on the IBM Watson technology will be valuable for our provider partners, and more importantly, give us new tools to help ensure our members are receiving the best possible care."

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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