Focusing on Watson’s use in the medical training field
“Being able to work with the faculty and students at an organization like Cleveland Clinic will help us learn how to more efficiently teach and adapt Watson to a new field through interaction with experts. It’s exciting to envision the possibilities for this next phase of Watson.”
Dr. David Ferrucci, IBM Fellow and Principal Investigator for the Watson project
By winning the television quiz show Jeopardy! in February, 2011, IBM Watson demonstrated how the capability of a computer to answer questions in natural language could transform the way humans interact with computers.
IBM is collaborating with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center with the aim of showing how Watson can help physicians improve their delivery of cancer care to their patients.
Now, IBM is working with the Cleveland Clinic to demonstrate how Watson may be used to advance the medical training field.
Watson, students – working side by side
Given the exponential growth in the volume of medical data, it’s impossible for human medical students to be expected to memorize every technical journal and text book available. In fact, based on current estimates, the amount of medical information doubles every 5 years and 81% of physicians have indicated they can spend, on average, less than five hours a month keeping up.1
By 2020, doctors could face 200 times the amount of facts2 that a human can process to make a decision, making assistive technologies like Watson increasingly useful.
While it may not be critical to understand how Watson arrived at a response for a Jeopardy question, a doctor will have to understand what sources of information Watson consulted before considering how to make use of Watson’s response to a question regarding a possible medical diagnosis or treatment option.
This process of considering multiple medical factors and discovering and evidencing solution paths in large volumes of data reflects the core capabilities of the Watson technology. Medical students will interact with Watson on challenging cases as part of a problem-based learning curriculum and in hypothetical clinical simulations.
A collaborative learning and training tool utilizing the Watson technology will be available to medical students to assist in their education to learn the process of navigating the latest content, suggesting and considering a variety of hypotheses and finding key evidence to support potential answers, diagnoses and possible treatment options.
Students will help improve Watson’s language and domain analysis capabilities by judging the evidence it provides and analyzing its answers within the domain of medicine The students and Watson will mutually benefit from each others’ strengths and expertise to both learn and improve their collaborative performance.
In a clear shift away from memorization and towards critical thinking, medical training programs will help students to use powerful discovery and language analysis tools like Watson to help them evaluate medical case scenarios and find evidence to help them carefully rationalize decisions. The physicians will rely on their own experience and expert critical thinking skills to read the evidence and make the final judgments.
“The practice of medicine is changing and so should the way medical students learn. In the real world, medical case scenarios should rely on people’s ability to quickly find and apply the most relevant knowledge,” said Dr. David Ferrucci, IBM Fellow and Principal Investigator of the Watson project. “Finding and evaluating multi-step paths through the medical literature is required to effectively identify evidence in support of potential diagnoses and treatment options.”
Over time, the expectation is that Watson will get “smarter” about medical language and how to assemble good chains of evidence from available content. Students, meanwhile, will learn how to focus on critical thinking skills and how to best leverage informational tools like Watson in helping them learn how to diagnose and treat patients.
“New discoveries and medical breakthroughs are growing our collective knowledge of medicine at an unprecedented pace, and tomorrow’s doctors will have to embrace new tools and technology to complement their own knowledge and experience in the field,” said James Stoller, M.D., chair of the Education Institute at Cleveland Clinic. “Technology will never replace the doctor, but it can make us better. Our students and faculty are excited to play a role in getting us there.”