Queensland-based Icon Group has signed up with IBM to implement an ‘augmented intelligence’ platform to put critical information at the fingertips of oncologists across the country.
Icon’s partnership will see the IBM Watson for Oncology platform make its debut in Australia and Icon co-founder and digital adviser Cathie Reid said that the solution will help keep clinicians stay on top of the ever increasing volume of cancer research.
“Traditionally they rely on a series of conferences and journals and have to soak up every bit of the new research but Watson gives them easier access to this information,” she said.
Currently, around 50,000 oncology research papers are published each year, while medical information is projected to double every 73 days by 2020.
“(This) will help our physicians understand the subtleties of each patient’s illness by combining their expertise with the increasing amounts of oncology literature available globally,” Ms Reid said.
“Investment in this technology will allow us to further support our oncology clinicians across Australia in their treatment decisions — based on the most current, credible information available — regardless of where they’re geographically based.”
Combating the city-country divide is an important part of how Icon’s hoping to use the platform, with Ms Reid saying that rural-based patient often face an additional financial and emotional burden of long distance travel to connect with specialists in major cities.
“This adds another layer of stress on top of what’s already a stressful time for patients.”
Icon is aiming to use the Watson platform to give physicians on the ground the ability to connect with specialists and get the best possible recommendation on the next course of treatment.
According to Ms Reid, this not only gives patients access to quality care closer to home but also makes the overall operations more efficient.
The platform provides access to evidence-based, personalised treatment options across seven types of cancer including breast, lung, colorectal, gastric, cervical, prostate and ovarian cancer.
Annette Hicks, senior health adviser at IBM Australia, said that the Watson platform illustrates how cognitive computing can be used to complement the work done by health professionals.
“This is not so much artificial intelligence but more augmented intelligence,” she said.
“Clinicians by and large are very good at their craft, so their initial reaction is that they don’t really need it, but with the amount of updating of information required they quickly see how the platform can augment their skills.”
Used at more than 48 healthcare organisations globally, the platform has been trained by leading oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer centre.
The process involves Watson ingesting data from more than 300 medical journals, more than 200 textbooks, and nearly 15 million pages of text-based research. The treatment options are ranked and linked to peer reviewed studies and clinical guidelines. It also continuously learns over time, based on its interactions with clinicians. The platform can be calibrated to cater to the different clinical protocols and availability of drug treatments based on geography.
“Part of what we do with the platform is the localisation, so Watson provides a relevant recommendation,” Ms Reid said.
Following rollout in Australia, Icon is aiming to launch Watson for Oncology across its South-East Asia network, where clinics in developing regions often lack the personnel and experience to deal with the burgeoning demand for oncology services.
The partnership follows the unveiling of the latest data on the efficacy of Watson for Oncology study at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.
According to the data, the platform has shown a high degree of concordance rates with the recommendations of oncologists and tumour boards during testing.
According to IBM, the platform achieved a concordance rate of 96 per cent for lung, 81 per cent for colon and 93 per cent for rectal cancer cases compared to recommendations from the multidisciplinary tumour board in a study at Manipal Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Bangalore, India.
It has also achieved a concordance rate of 83 per cent for multiple cancer types compared to recommendations from oncologists in a study at Bumrungrad International Hospital, a multispecialty hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.
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