WellPoint announced plansin September to develop commercial applications utilizing IBM Watson to help improve patient care and support physicians in their efforts to make the most informed, personalized treatment decisions possible. It is estimated that new clinical research and medical information doubles every five years, and nowhere is this knowledge advancing more quickly than in the complex area of cancer care.
WellPoint believes oncology is one of the medical fields that could greatly benefit from this technology, given IBM Watson’s ability to respond to inquiries posed in natural language and to learn from the responses it generates. The WellPoint health care solutions will draw from vast libraries of information, including medical evidence-based scientific and health care data, and clinical insights from institutions like Indiana University. The goal is to assist physicians in evaluating evidence-based treatment options that can be delivered to the physician in a matter of seconds for assessment. WellPoint and the IU Simon Cancer Center envision that this valuable enhancement to the decision-making process could empower physician-patient discussions about the best and most effective courses of treatment and improve the overall quality of patient care.
The IU Simon Cancer Center was selected as WellPoint’s partner and clinical consultant based on its reputation as one of the nation’s premier cancer institutions and its proven results in the diagnosis and treatment of complex cancers. IU Simon Cancer Center has experience and demonstrated success in working with technology innovators and shares WellPoint’s commitment to improving the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of health care through innovation and technology.
IU Simon Cancer Center experts will help develop recommendations on appropriate clinical content for the WellPoint health care solutions. They will also assist in the evaluation and testing of the specific tools that WellPoint plans to develop for the oncology field. The cancer experts will provide guidance on how to improve the content and utility of the treatment options provided to the physicians using the new technology and will also become early adopters in piloting the system.
Leading the IU Simon Cancer Center’s efforts are George W. Sledge, Jr., MD, andPatrick J. Loehrer, Sr., MD. They will work closely with WellPoint’s clinical experts, and with IU’s trusted informatics partner, the Regenstrief Institute, to provide advice on how the solutions may be best utilized in clinical practice to support increased understanding of the evolving body of knowledge in cancer, including emerging therapies not widely known by community physicians. As the solutions are developed, Drs. Sledge and Loehrer will also provide guidance to WellPoint.
“As we design the WellPoint systems that leverage IBM Watson’s capabilities, it is essential that we incorporate the highly-specialized knowledge and real-life practice experiences of the nation’s premier clinical experts,” said Harlan Levine, MD, executive vice president of WellPoint’s Comprehensive Health Solutions. “The contributions from Dr. Sledge and Dr. Loehrer, coupled with the expertise throughout the IU Simon Cancer Center, will be invaluable to implementing this WellPoint offering and could ultimately benefit millions of Americans across the country.”
“Researchers from the IU Simon Cancer Center are leading clinical investigators who have set standards of care for treatment of numerous malignancies, including germ cell tumors, breast and thoracic tumors,” said Dr. Loehrer, director of the IU Simon Cancer Center and HH Gregg Professor of Oncology at the IU School of Medicine. “We will also be working closely with experts at the Regenstrief Institute — an internationally respected informatics and healthcare organization — whose scientists were among the first in the nation to establish electronic medical records. Together, our organizations have a longstanding history of impacting patient care with clinical research.”
WellPoint anticipates deploying its first offering later this year, working with select physician groups in clinical pilots.