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Mere humans' could tackle big health problems with the help of this supercomputer

Published by Business Insider on Wed, 25 May 2016

Dr. Paul Tang is six weeks into a new job at the company where he started his career.The 30-year health-tech veteran who is also a practicing doctor is coming on as Watson Health's "chief health transformation officer." His job' To find ways to use Watson that will help set up a "personalized healthcare" system.Personalized healthcare means pulling together all the information available about a person: not just their clinical and genetic information but also their social, behavioral, demographic and personal preferences."Instead of saying 'what's the matter with you,' which is a disease focused way, I like to think of 'what matters the most to you''I think we would be better clinicians better doctors if we knew that," Tang told Business Insider.Essentially, he'll have to find ways to take a whole lot of data on a large number of people, and turn that into individualized approaches for doctors to use on the spot when talking to a patient.Ultimately, using a wide range of factorslike ease of access to a pharmacyto predict what is likely tohappen to a patient if they follow a certain course of treatment over another, could save money.Tang gave the example of hypertension, or high blood pressure. If left untreated, it can lead to heart problems. There are drugs available to treat it, but they don't always seem to help.The goal of personalized healthcare is to figure out if factors like cost,difficulty getting to the pharmacy, orsocial or behavioral componentsare what's really keeping the illness under control.Watson, IBM's supercomputer that can process huge amounts of data to analyze anything from "Star Wars" screenplaysto coming up with recipes.Watsoncan also sift through massive amounts of health dataeverything from electronic health records to insurance claims.That's something a "mere human," as Tang put it would have a hard time doing."It's paradoxical:You need to know a whole lot of data about a whole lot of people in order to do what's best for the individual," he said.The hire fits in with a lot of what Watson Health has been up to:In February, the companyacquired Truven Health Analytics, a whichcollects data to find ways to treat patients more effectively while spending less, a concept often known as "value-based care."The idea with value-based care is that instead of getting paid based on the number of people that come to a hospital, doctors have a financial incentiveto do more toultimately help the patient feel better faster. That way, healthcare providersare paid tokeep peoplehealthy and help improve the condition of people living with chronic conditions like diabetes in an evidence-based way. And that's what Tang wants to see more of."I'm a firm believer that if we do the right thing for an individual, it will cost less," he said.SEE ALSO:IBM just struck a deal so its Watson supercomputer can help you feel better fasterDON'T MISS:RANKED: These are the most and least reputable drug companies in the worldJoin the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: Doing this for 5 minutes every day can help people who suffer from depression
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