IBM Watson moves into China to improve cancer treatment

Twenty-two hospitals in China will adopt IBM’s Watson in a multiyear push toward personalized and evidence-based cancer treatment. In its first partnership in China, IBM will work with healthcare services organization Hangzhou CognitiveCare to introduce Watson for Oncology to hospitals across the country.

Hangzhou CognitiveCare will support the Watson rollout in China by localizing Watson for Oncology. For example, because Watson will initially only be available in English, CognitiveCare will offer translation support so that insights, such as drug labels and treatment guidelines, will be available to customers and patients in Chinese, according to a statement.

CognitiveCare was set up to introduce cognitive computing to cancer treatment in China. It will advance the uptake of Watson for Oncology by leveraging its regional network of teleconsultation system service providers, according to the statement. The providers in the network will provide knowledge of the region, medical community and health needs of the population.

This collaboration come at a time where cancer cases are rising in China, but doctors are having difficulty keeping abreast of new and emerging cancer research. Of a total population of 1.4 billion, 2015 alone saw 4.3 million new cancer cases and 2.8 million cancer deaths.

“Optimum care for cancer patients often requires a customized, evidence-based approach to treatment due to the unique characteristics of the disease,” said Nancy Fabozzi, principal analyst of transformational health at Frost & Sullivan, in the statement. ”Watson for Oncology offers great potential to help enable the best possible patient outcomes and is ideally suited to help advance China's efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of cancer treatment.”

Watson for Oncology will help doctors customize treatments by analyzing “massive volumes” of medical literature to select individualized treatments, quickly summarizing patient records and scoring and ranking literature. It works from a bank of more than 300 medical journals, more than 200 textbooks and close to 15 million pages of text, as well as peer-reviewed studies and clinical guidelines, to offer recommendations about possible treatment options. And its machine learning capacity means that it will only improve over time.

IBM has established a number of partnerships around its Watson computer, notably teaming up with the American Diabetes Association to apply cognitive computing to clinical and research data, and deploying its Watson Genomic Analysis cloud-based service to help 14 U.S. hospitals provide personalized cancer treatment.

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