From Jeopardy to Healthcare: WellPoint Strikes Deal With IBM Over Watson

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Health insurer WellPoint is expected to announce a partnership today with Watson technology — the IBM data-crunching software featured on "Jeopardy!" in January — to help physicians diagnose and design treatment plans, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Watson software is able to mine large amounts of data to aid decision-making, reportedly processing nearly 200 million pages of content in less than three seconds. It has not yet been used in a real-world health setting, but academic researchers have been conditioning it for healthcare and testing it with thousands of medical-quiz questions, according to the report.

WellPoint officials said they ultimately want to provide the Watson service more broadly to physicians who treat complicated chronic conditions. They also hope to create an application that could be accessed directly by patients seeking health information, according to the report.

Exact terms of the agreement between WellPoint and IBM were not disclosed. An IBM official, however, said the insurer's payments involve "some up front and some over time," according to the report.

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