WellPoint Hiring Jeopardy-Champ Computer To Make Treatment Decisions For Customers

We’re sure that most of you were sitting around thinking that the one thing the U.S. health insurance business needs is to be even less human than it is currently. And it looks like the folks at the health insurance behemoth WellPoint have heard those thoughts, because they have decided to “hire” Watson, the IBM supercomputer that beat two humans on Jeopardy earlier this year to help them decide on issues of treatment for policyholders.

Says an IBM executive:

With medical information doubling every five years and health care costs increasing, Watson has tremendous potential for applications that improve the efficiency of care and reduce wait times for diagnosis and treatment by enabling clinicians with access to the best clinical data the moment they need it… WellPoint’s commitment to innovation and their work to improve how care is delivered and benefits administered make them an ideal partner for IBM’s software and services to pioneer new efficiencies in health care.

Watson will be used to compare patients’ records to a library of medical texts and journals, and WellPoint’s own history of treatments to generate a list of options.

Now it’s someone from WellPoint to explain:

Imagine having the ability to take in all the information around a patient’s medical care — symptoms, findings, patient interviews and diagnostic studies. Then, imagine using Watson analytic capabilities to consider all of the prior cases, the state-of-the-art clinical knowledge in the medical literature and clinical best practices to help a physician advance a diagnosis and guide a course of treatment… We believe this will be an invaluable resource for our partnering physicians and will dramatically enhance the quality and effectiveness of medical care they deliver to our members.

We just hope WellPoint, which has more than 32 million customers in the U.S., doesn’t use Watson’s big electronic brain to pinpoint policyholders with costly conditions and then drop them from coverag. You know, like it was accused of doing to breast cancer patients in 2010.

Watson, Your New Health Insurer [ABC News]