IBM: Data can diagnose and predict diseases

Business intelligence and analytics can be used to save lives, as IBM demonstrates at its Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas.

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IBM has showcased research carried out in the world of healthcare, where information is used to both predict as well as diagnose problems in patients.

William Pulleybank, vice president for business optimisation at IBM global services, said that healthcare was a sector that had the greatest challenges and opportunities when it came to the company's vision of making the world use information in more intelligent ways.

Pulleybank, who previously lead the Blue Gene project for IBM research, presented a project that the company worked on with the University of Ontario, which looked at how real-time data taken from patients could be used to potentially predict the onset of conditions.

IBM's work with information data could also change the world of diagnostics, Pulleybank claimed. Clinical data could be integrated and made available so that a doctor in an office could look at it, find out what was happening, and do a better job of diagnosing the disease.

He said that this information could be supported by published data from medical journals, pulled in to a system called Watson' that collected, assimilated, and could understand the content.

"When we give these recommendations to the physician as to what could be the cause of a disease, it incorporates recent learning into it. How valuable is that?" Pulleybank said.

"Think of that physician who hasn't got time to read all those articles. What if the ones that matter are being brought to your attention? It's an extraordinary opportunity to speed and improve the diagnosis, and also save costs," he added.

Cost saving is a major factor, especially in the US, because if a doctor knows what the problem isn't, it negates the need for unnecessary expensive tests and procedures.

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