Think about these business headlines that never happened:
- Western Union Acquires AT&T & Verizon On The Same Day: The largest telecom provider is getting bigger by adding faster cellular service options through today’s unprecedented acquisition.
- Eastman Kodak Introduces the K-Phone: Digital photography giant extends its market-dominant position in digital photography by bringing cellular phone and digital music capabilities to its already advanced digital cameras.
That was how Craig Rhinehart, director of Innovation and Market Development at IBM Watson Health, opened his keynote address at the 2016 OPEN MINDS Technology and Informatics Institute, Cognitive Computing & Big Data: How They Will Shape The Future Of Care Delivery. The scenarios above might not be as far-fetched as you think: Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell the telephone to Western Union and was told, “After careful consideration of your invention … we have come to the conclusion that it has no commercial possibilities. What use could this company make of an electrical toy?” And Kodak invented the digital camera in the 1970s but did not move on the opportunity because of the profitability of their film business.
What does this have to do with your organization’s strategy in the health and human service field? Mr. Rhinehart encouraged the audience to “disrupt your own business, before someone else does.” To evaluate new developments and adopt the “next big thing.”
So what “next big things” are in the pipeline in health and human services? Mr. Rhinehart spoke of the four trends that could create a whole new way of doing business — mobile computing via the cloud, the Internet of Things, big data and analytics, and cognitive computing. Together, these technologies are bringing “augmented intelligence” (rather than artificial intelligence) to the field, defined as tools and technologies to support human decision-making (for more, see The Future Of Care Coordination? It’s Elementary, Watson).
His example of the power of this new technology was impressive: using IBM Watson technology to improve the diagnosis of cancer and to develop personalized treatment recommendations. Now, in partnership with Quest Diagnostics™, collaborating with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), UNC Lineberger (as seen on 60 Minutes), and over 20 other leading cancer institutions, the opportunity exists to give every clinician the ability to create a unique, personalized approach for their patients. Despite some initial reservations by the physicians, the power of IBM Watson to digest and interpret all available medical journals and clinical trial data won them over. (FYI, I learned that the number of medical journal articles published each year is now at 442,756 — with the total pages per year reaching 2.79 million.)
The IBM Research team is working on a similar application for the behavioral health field — they’re researching and testing the use of Watson for conducting psychiatric interviews. So far, they’ve seen positive results for tech-enabled interviews for psychosis, drug intake, Parkinson’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease. For anyone working in the field, the prospect of extending the valuable time of psychiatrists is exciting.
Where will cognitive computing take us in health and human services in the years ahead? The possibilities are only limited by our imagination. But, when you see that next big thing, take Craig Rhinehart’s advice and disrupt your own business before someone else does.