09/13/2011 12:55 pm ET Updated Nov 13, 2011

How 'Watson' Could Help Health Care

Perhaps you've heard that the IBM/"Jeopardy!" challenge (man vs. machine) will re-air on September 12, 13 and 14. If you missed it earlier in the year, you won't want to again. It's fascinating how IBM's "Watson" computing system can out-trivia Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, all-time "Jeopardy!" champions.

The application of Watson, artificial intelligence, to a game show is neat to say the least. But what's really intriguing is imagining where else Watson's wow-factor could be introduced. Earlier this year, IBM shared its vision for Watson in health care when it announced a multi-year research effort with speech and language understanding company Nuance.

Try to envision how artificial intelligence could impact health care. Doctors considering a patient's diagnosis could use Watson as an aid for decision making -- instantly having access to reference materials, prior cases, and the latest journal articles and medical literature. Not only could Watson provide information to a doctor, but Watson could make informed recommendations, helping medical professionals confidently determine the best course of action for individual patients.

The prospects for advanced computing in health care are undeniable, and behind the scenes, Watson is in clinical boot camp getting prepared to participate in one of the most important jobs there is -- taking care of patients and saving lives. While the future role of Watson as part of health care is certain, and technological and clinical experts from IBM, Nuance and beyond are working to advance Watson for primetime, it's critical that we focus on achieving what is possible and necessary right now. After all, tomorrow's innovation relies on the work we undertake today.

Over the years the health care industry has made remarkable progress bringing to fruition an idea that was seeded decades ago. In 1965, CEO Thomas J. Watson, Jr. -- son of the IBM CEO for whom the Watson computer was named -- said: "The widespread use [of computers] ... in hospitals and physicians' offices will instantaneously give a doctor or a nurse a patient's entire medical history, eliminating both guesswork and bad recollection, and sometimes making a difference between life and death."

His vision emulates the technological future that the health care industry continues to work toward and, in some care settings, is beginning to achieve. I share this post with you to spur excitement for what's to come in health care for there will be much change driven by innovation. As you watch Watson's encore on "Jeopardy!," be fascinated, be entertained and be confident that Watson's game show appearance is just the beginning.