Cancer is fast turning into an epidemic in India.According to a study by The National Cancer Institute (NCI), every 13th new cancer patient in the world is an Indian. In 2016, the total number of new cancer cases is anticipated to be around 14.5 lakh and that figure is likely to reach nearly 17.3 lakh in 2020, as per a study by The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Such numbers exacerbate the magnitude of healthcare issues in the country. The first step towards addressing this mammoth task is access to healthcare. The country also needs to integrate technology into the healthcare system.
The good news is that the paramount importance of technology, especially cognitive, is being recognised by healthcare institutes. Manipal Hospitals has adopted IBM Watson for Oncology, a cognitive computing platform, to help physicians identify options for individualised, evidence-based cancer care across India. This is the first deployment of Watson’s cognitive computing platform in the country. This niche technology is in use by oncologists at six locations in the Manipal Hospitals network to provide information and insights to physicians to help them identify personalised evidence-based cancer care options across India.
“This engagement represents a major step in the transformation of healthcare in India. With IBM Watson we are bringing cognitive computing to the healthcare ecosystem to help deliver greater value to patients in India,” said Vanitha Narayanan, managing director, IBM India.
Globally too, IBM Watson for Oncology has been adopted at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand and Gachon Univeristy Gil Medical Centre in Korea. Around 21 hospitals across China plan to adopt Watson for Oncology through an IBM partnership with Hangzhou CognitiveCare of China. That’s not all.
Researchers are using cognitive computing to find personalised cancer treatments for patients. Humans and machines are forging a new age of understanding. Clinicians and analysts are training cognitive computing system to interpret cancer patients’ clinical information and identify individualised, evidence-based treatment options that leverage decades of experience and research by top oncologists, across the globe.
IBM’s Watson Health business unit is focused on the health industry, built upon the foundation of the work done with Watson and the momentum of cloud. This team of consultants, medical practitioners, clinicians, developers and researchers work with an extensive ecosystem of partners and clients to advance the quality of individual health with advanced data analytics and insights. With its core capabilities—reading natural language, evaluating cases with evolving machine-learned models, finding and providing supporting evidence from a wide variety of sources, and rapidly processing large volumes of data—cognitive computing is being used in oncology to transform healthcare and help address some of the challenges oncologists are facing.
A ray of hope
Cut to the India deployment. Manipal oncologists can now access IBM Watson for Oncology for patients with breast, colorectal and lung cancer registered with a Manipal facility pan-India (Goa covering western India, Jaipur covering northern India, Vijayawada covering East India, South and rest of the country covered by the three Manipal hospitals in Bengaluru). A team of 12 oncologists from Manipal Hospitals, who have been trained to use this solution help the patients in exact diagnosis and administer treatment accordingly. Watson can understand the case and highlight a list of potential treatments with a percentage rank of certitude. The doctor then reviews the list and makes the final treatment decision in consult with the patient.
“The introduction of Watson for Oncology will be a game changer for cancer patients across the country. With Watson, Manipal oncologists can make informed treatment decisions for patients based on insights derived from the individuals’ unique health status, the latest medical research and other relevant data,” said Dr Ajay Bakshi, MD & CEO, Manipal Hospitals. “With the launch of the Manipal expert opinion service, we are also open to partnering with other hospitals and medical consultants who seek to benefit from Watson for Oncology or individuals who have received a cancer diagnosis and wish to seek the advice of a Manipal doctor.”
Tech comes to rescue
Technical speak, Watson scales vital knowledge and provides insights and information to help oncologists as they consider treatment options for their patients. Using natural language, clinicians using Watson for Oncology will be able to have information to allow them to explore treatment options, and gather evidence specific to a patients’ individual health needs. Watson ranks identified treatment options and provides links to supporting evidence for each option to help oncologists as they consider treatment options for their patient.
Watson for Oncology draws from an impressive corpus of information, and, to date, more than 300 medical journals, more than 200 textbooks, and nearly 15 million pages of text. The cognitive computing platform also supplies for consideration supporting evidence in the form of administration information, as well as information regarding the different drug options. Watson’s machine learning capability means it is continuously learning over time,and doctors have access to peer reviewed studies, clinical guidelines and expert perspectives.
Imagine, cancer patients—irrespective of their financial backgrounds—receiving personalised treatment in a country which is starved of oncologists, cancer-specialised hospitals, and is home to 2.5 million cancer patients, with 1 million new cases being added every year and a chance of the disease rising five-fold by 2025. These terrifying numbers emphasize the pressing need for, among other things, cognitive computing in redefining healthcare.
Without doubt, valuable lessons can be learned from use of cognitive computing by healthcare institutes and replicated elsewhere across the country.