Market Insight

Cognitive Computing in Healthcare

November 19, 2015

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The stigma around using artificial intelligence has led to the term ‘cognitive computing’. As excitement and, quite frankly, the need for data mining and analysis engines grows, it is being viewed differently by the healthcare community.

There are two reasons why cognitive computing will be welcomed in the healthcare market:

  • Firstly, there is an enormous amount of health data that needs to be analyzed, and the majority is unstructured. In other words, only a small portion of health data is in succinct rows and columns, while most of it is multimedia including audio, images, or video. It is projected that by 2020, there will be 44 zettabytes of health data globally. There are not enough physicians in the world to derive useful insights from that much data, and none of the current population health management tools has the capability of producing useful analysis on unstructured data.
  • The second reason is related to why data needs to be analyzed in the first place. The growing number of risk-bearing entities in healthcare need to analyze the data to manage their patients effectively and ultimately get paid for their services. This is value-based care, and it is coming. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has already announced that by 2018, 80% of its payments will be value-based.

What will cognitive computing actually be able to do? Imagine generating individually customized feedback for every consumer or patient, and all of this feedback resulting in actionable insights that allow multidimensional engagement from family, caretakers, and primary care physician when necessary. From a clinician perspective, cognitive computing will provide the effective management of a growing number of chronically ill patients, in an intimate yet business focused fashion. While we often talk about physicians having to change, patients will also need to change and adapt to the possibility of having a virtual health assistant managing their health.

Whether it is called cognitive computing or artificial intelligence, healthcare needs it. It holds great promise and is able to support the structural change that value-based care is bringing to healthcare and providers. Currently, the one company making big moves is IBM with Watson Health. There are also other players in the market space such as California-based, Beyond Limits, that promises inductive and deductive reasoning on its platform.

Atul Gawande famously stated that only the physician can improve medicine, but that was in a world before cognitive computing.

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