I thought that Watson, the super computer besting both Ken Jennings and Brett Butler on Jeopardy, may have only been a bright spot for television ratings. But as it turns out, the artificial intelligence computer system developed by IBM also temps as a data cruncher. Its newest assignment: analyzing health insurance data.
Watson is just one of the ways the healthcare industry is exploring to help lower costs. “Under pressure to do more with less, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and healthcare providers are all pushing data analysis to new heights” .The Wall Street Journal reports that several insurers, including UnitedHealth Group Inc. and WellPoint Inc. are seeking to pinpoint who will develop conditions such as diabetes. Pharmacy-benefit managers such as Express Scripts Inc. and CVS Caremark Corp. are working on programs to predict medication compliance. Care providers, meanwhile, are trying to identify who is most likely to be admitted—or readmitted—to a hospital, and are adjusting their care to prevent such return visits.”
The goal is to provide more efficient and effective healthcare. If insurers can identify high risk patients, then healthcare providers and pharmacy managers can work collaboratively to begin preventative treatment sooner. The earlier precautionary measures are taken, the lower patient and provider costs will be, not to mention the improvement in overall quality of life, making our later years that much more golden.
Forget man vs machine, we’ve already moved far beyond this somewhat archaic concept. We’re in the age of man and machine, an age where we understand that machines are our creations, and even if they continue to win competitions, they will forever be a reflection of us.