Icon and IBM Watson Health – and why this partnership is another one that’s going to be iconic!

It’s a busy time at Icon, with the announcement of our partnership with IBM Watson Health, the first of its kind in Australia, coming hot on the heels of the announcement of our new investors.

We’re incredibly excited to be providing our oncologists with access to the vast volumes of cancer research and literature contained within Watson to support their clinical decision making.  With around 50 000 oncology research papers published every year, staying abreast of this ever increasing volume of medical information without the support of technology is beyond the ability of any human.  Watson for Oncology’s intelligent machine learning capabilities allow it to not only digest the information, and present evidence based treatment options for clinicians to review, but also mean it continually learns over time from the way the clinicians are using the system and the recommendations they are adopting.

Image Credit IBM Watson Health

Our first step at Icon is working with IBM to localise the product for the Australian market, making sure it’s recommendations are relevant to medicines which are available for use in Australia.  Importantly though it will still also have the ability to show the latest global thinking, making it easier for clinicians to research international treatment options when necessary.

We see an important role for Watson for Oncology in our Icon Group goal of delivering the best possible cancer care to as many people as possible, as close to home as possible, where combined with telehealth consultations, we believe it can assist in keeping patients close to their family and support networks while they deal with the stress associated with a cancer diagnosis and the exploration of available treatment options.

We also envisage the product playing a role in our continued expansion into South East Asia and China, where the incidence of cancer diagnosis is outstripping the availability of oncologists, again assisting patients to access quality cancer care while staying as close to home as possible.  We’re also really looking forward to hearing the additional ideas that our oncologists will undoubtedly come up with once they have had the chance to dive deeper into Watson and explore its possibilities.

I’ve spent the past few days in Chicago at ASCO, the worlds largest clinical cancer research meeting, planning the commencement of our partnership and gaining more insights into how other users around the world are working with the product. The event itself also highlights the stark reality of the sheer volumes of new information, with more than 30 000 oncology professionals in attendance, and multiple concurrent sessions going on in a multi level conference centre the size of a football field.

A fraction of the vast trade exhibition at ASCO17

My conversations, and those I’ve witnessed happening around me have also illustrated another important point.  While I firmly believe augmented intelligence will play an increasingly vital role in the delivery of healthcare, face to face conversations will always still be important, as it’s impossible – at this point in time anyway- for a computer to recreate the ideation and collaboration borne from those interpersonal connections.

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