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Chronic health conditions impact the lives of billions of people around the world each year.

Chronic illness accounts for approximately 60% of deaths globally each year.

World population: 6.8 billion. 2 billion people worldwide struggle with chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Early and accurate diagnosis has the potential to improve patient success rates, but it can be difficult to establish.

Medical knowledge is growing more quickly than doctors can keep up with.

In the U.S. alone, up to 15% of medical diagnoses are inaccurate or incomplete.

Digitized medicine in North America alone will grow 400% by 2015 —reaching a total of 14,000 terabytes of data, or 7,500 times the data in all U.S. libraries combined.

To give physicians better insight to help improve patient outcomes, WellPoint is pioneering the use of DeepQA technology—otherwise known as IBM Watson—in healthcare.

Imagine a patient describing her symptoms to a physician who has immediate access to Watson through his laptop.

  1. Based on the symptoms described, Watson provides probabilities for five possible diagnoses.
  2. Watson then considers explicitly absent symptoms to reassess these probabilities.
  3. Correlating the symptoms with family and patient histories, Watson is able to refine the hypotheses further.
  4. The process is repeated with a focus on the patient’s current medications.
  5. Final probabilities are determined, and the physician moves on to testing.

Every patient represents a wide spectrum of variables.


  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Cough

Family history

  • Diabetes
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Coagulation disorders
  • Grave’s Disease

Patient history

  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Frequent urinary tract infection
  • Smoking

Clinical findings

  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Restoration rate
  • Temperature
  • Pain score


  • Pravastatin
  • - Lasix
  • Aspirin
  • Chemotherapy
  • Antiemetics

Watson: An expert diagnostic system

This groundbreaking system can pore though the equivalent of 200 million pages of medical data and formulate a response in less than 3 seconds, enabling healthcare professionals to make more informed decisions more quickly than ever before.

Natural language processing - Breaks down the communication barrier between humans and computers.

Hypothesis generation - Offers various probabilities rather than attempting a single “right” answer.

Adaptation and learning - Builds knowledge iteratively over time, in much the same way that humans learn.

Correlated patient information

Possible conditions

  • Renal failure
  • UTI
  • Influenza
  • Esophagitis
  • Diabetes
  • Stage 1 lung cancer

WellPoint is using Watson to help physicians become better at what they do — delivering improved care more quickly and confidently than ever before. The potential of Watson doesn’t end there. The same capabilities hold enormous promise for financial services, transportation and more.