IBM Watson and German hospital team for rare disease diagnosis

IBM Watson

IBM Watson ($IBM) is teaming up with a private hospital group in Germany to use its technology to help doctors diagnose rare diseases.

The Zurich-based company will work with Rhön-Klinikum AG (RKA) on a one-year pilot project at RKA’s Centre for Undiagnosed and Rare Diseases at University Hospital Marburg. The goal is to use patient data and cloud computing to make diagnoses easier for physicians.

As part of the project, patients will fill out a digital questionnaire developed by the medical staff in Marburg. Anonymous patient data will then be sent to Watson’s artificial intelligence programs in the IBM Cloud. Doctors can access relevant information, which could help them diagnose a disease and choose an appropriate treatment.

“Using cognitive computing, we are building a list of hypotheses, including their sources, which we then present to the doctors for an ultimate data-driven diagnosis. If one lab result is slightly outside of the normal range, Watson may flag it for further investigation,” Matthias Reumann, healthcare scientist and technical leader of the project, IBM Research, said in a statement.

IBM Watson and RKA are not stopping there, though. The pair also plans to use data from the pilot project in other hospitals in the group.

Ultimately, the technology could help cut costs, IBM Watson and RKA said in a statement. Data from the system could help link patients with the correct specialist and treatment plan, thus reducing readmission.

“Optimized patient management is crucial for both the nationwide medical treatment of tomorrow and the further development of our company. In this context, digital solutions are becoming increasingly decisive,” RKA’s CFO Jens-Peter Neumann. “Our cooperation with IBM is an important part of our innovation strategy.”

IBM Watson’s partnership with RKA comes on the heels of more collaboration. In September, the company said it would team up with the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation to use its technology to help decrease healthcare costs in Finland.

Earlier this month, IBM Watson said it would work with Siemens Healthineers on a five-year population health management program. The pair plans to address population health issues and develop new tools for value-based healthcare.