IBM Dr. WatsonAsk anybody; more data has been created in the last few years than in all of recorded history up to this point. Is it any wonder that many healthcare companies are struggling to make sense of all this unstructured data? Systems that were developed just a few years ago are sometimes no longer capable of supporting the sheer quantity of data that even the most simplistic of jobs throws up these days, so data services need to keep ahead of the curve if they are going to remain effective. This is exactly the area in which IBM hopes to have broken new ground with their data analytics platform Dr Watson – named after Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant practitioner and surgeon.

What does it do?

Healthcare companies can easily get lost in a mire of incomprehensible admission records, patient histories, family histories and symptoms with the over-proliferation of data that confronts them at every turn. With so much data to process, mistakes can be made if left down to fallible human beings. On the popular American TV gameshow Jeopardy! in February 2011, Watson demonstrated its incredible ability to process natural language, cross-reference it with known facts and retrieve an accurate diagnosis, or in this instance, a correct answer. IBM’s machine beat all comers on the notoriously tricky quiz, including two of the game’s all-time record holders.

Why does it matter?

Watson’s omniscience is more than just a faintly creepy party trick, however. The fact that this machine can process real human language – can understand all of its complexities and ambiguities and return with an answer that is not only correct and quick but specific – means that the device has countless applications for real-world data analysis. Watson learns; by ingesting huge amounts of data, the analytics platform begins to understand how human beings communicate and thus can select relevant documents, pieces of text and references from an enormous data sample in a far more sophisticated way than any search engine. The end goal is to have Watson operate as a ‘clinical decision support system’ – a system which can assist doctors in their diagnoses, prevent incorrect treatments and reduce costly re-admissions.

Watson is one of the world’s most sophisticated supercomputers and one day may very well be able to nullify practically all issues regarding big data analysis. Until such a time as analytics platforms like Watson become practical, cost-effective solutions to big data problems, companies and institutions must utilise other means to make sense of their data. To find out how our services could help you to process otherwise complicated data sets, contact us to arrange a free workshop.