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IBM's Watson technology has helped doctors before, but usually by poring through databases before offering its advice. Now, it's ready to look at the patients themselves -- or rather, their body scans. The AI platform can sift through ultrasounds, x-rays and other medical data to both fill out health records and identify patients who might need critical care. The imaging tech will first be used to diagnose patients with aortic stenosis, where the heart's aortic valve narrows and constricts blood flow. Watson will combine heart imagery with medical records to spot patients who might need follow-up treatments.
The goal is for the technology to quickly scan medical images and prioritize abnormal results, allowing doctors to spend their time on the more difficult cases. The machines would also provide a check on human error. Companies are jumping on board. IBM Watson Health, which acquired enterprise imaging software company Merge Healthcare in 2015, plans to put its Watson supercomputer to work analyzing medical images. One of its projects, presented at the Radiological Society of North America's annual conference, focuses on research around aortic stenosis, a heart condition that occurs when the aortic valve narrows.
Getting treatment for heart disease depends on a diagnosis from doctors, who can occasionally miss the subtle signs of trouble. IBM thinks it can help those doctors through artificial intelligence -- namely its Watson technology famous for besting Jeopardy champions and researching cancer. The company announced the introduction of its newest feature as part of its broader expansion of Watson Health's medical imaging initiative, which will now include 24 healthcare organizations around the world. This is a different challenge for Watson. For the first time, IBM's technology will be looking over medical data that includes images such as ultrasounds, x-rays and other types of visuals used by medical professionals.