The Mayo Clinic is employing IBM's Watson to find better treatment options for cancer patients.

Photo Credit: IBM

Photo Credit: IBM

IBM's cognitive computer system, Watson, is being employed by the Mayo Clinic to help enroll patients in clinical trials that fit their needs. According to CIO, this will help speed up the process of new discoveries and will help offer patients better treatment possibilities. The collaboration will first focus on cancer treatments. 

"Ultimately, we believe Watson will help advance scientific discoveries into promising new forms of care that clinicians can use to treat all patients," said Mike Rhodin, senior VP of the IBM Watson Group. "Through this effort, Mayo Clinic can consistently offer more medical options to patients and conclude clinical trials faster."

Dr. Steven Alberts, chair of medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic, added: "In an area like cancer, where time is of the essence, the speed and accuracy that Watson offers will allow us to develop an individualized treatment plan more efficiently so we can deliver exactly the care that the patient needs."

The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation says $95 billion is spent a year on medical research in the U.S. However, only 6 percent of clinical trials are actually completed on time, largely due to the amount of data clinicians need to sort through to choose the right recruitments. 

With Watson's natural language processing and data analytic capabilities, IBM says the artificial intelligence will be able to sort through millions of pages of trial and patient data in seconds. 

A version of Watson is currently being trained by IBM and experts at Mayo to analyze patient records and clinical trial criteria in order to determine the best matches. As time goes on, Watson will learn more about the clinical trials and the matching process to become more efficient. The computer system might also help in enrolling patients in trials involving more rare diseases, which are often not completed because of the lack of participants. 

The collaboration will begin piloting in early 2015. 

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