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June 4, 2016: IEEE Computing Now

Cognitive Computing Set to Make Significant Inroads in Healthcare Industry

The global healthcare cognitive computing market is poised for explosive growth.

Market research firm Grand View Research predicts it will top more than $5 billion by 2022. Grand Review Research also says significant factors driving the market are rapid growth in the scientific database, demand for personalized healthcare, and the need to reduce healthcare expenditure levels.

Another market research firm, IDC, says by 2018, about 30 percent of healthcare systems will be running cognitive analytics against patient data and real-world evidence to personalize treatment regiments. IDC also prognosticates that by 2018, physicians will rely on cognitive solutions for almost half of cancer patients and that will result in a 10 percent drop in both costs and mortality rates.

And major players in private equity and healthcare are taking notice too. Cognitive computing company Digital Reasoning recently closed a $40 million round of Series D venture capital, led by Lemhi Ventures and NASDAQ, joined by prior investors Goldman Sachs and Hospital Corp. of America.

So what exactly is cognitive computing? In short, it involves self-learning systems that use natural language processing, data mining and pattern recognition, creating automated IT systems that solve problems without human assistance. In the healthcare arena, cognitive computing is helping clinicians develop their own thinking and solutions faster.

And boiled down to relevant characteristics, cognitive computing systems can:

  • Understand and interpret natural language;
  • Learn;
  • Extend what humans and machines can do;
  • Help experts make better decisions by penetrating the complexity of Big Data – both structured and unstructured data.

Currently, key players include Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Palantir and PTC. A number of large healthcare firms, such as Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Medtronic, for instance, are partnering with IBM to utilize its cognitive computing platform, Watson.

J&J is working with Watson to launch a personal concierge service that will help prepare patients for knee surgery. Medtronic is utilizing Watson to launch an Internet of Things (IoT) platform centered on its medical devices. It will grab data from a patient's personal use to better analyze both product performance and patient response.

And Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has launched NantHealth, a subsidiary of NantWorks. NantHealth is combining biomolecular medicine and bioinformatics with technology services to empower physicians, patients, payers, pharma and researchers. NantWorks "is a convergence of next generation machine vision, object and voice recognition technologies, ultra-low power semiconductors, supercomputing, and advanced networks for the purpose of bringing the digital revolution to healthcare, commerce, and digital entertainment to an entirely new level."

Tom Sullivan, writing in Healthcare IT News, said there are still hurdles to overcome – data is always going to be an issue for both healthcare providers and technology vendors.

"Collecting it, storing it, normalizing it, tracing its lineage and the critical – if not particularly sexy – matter of governance, are all necessary so providers can harness cutting-edge software and hardware innovations to glean insights that enhance patient care."

And Sarah Mihalik, VP of provider solutions at IBM Watson Health summed up the ongoing challenge:

"Translating data into action – that is the hard part, isn't it?"

Return to: 2016 Feature Stories