Computers like WATSON will change how future doctors diagnose and treat Canadians, says IBM expert

IBM Speaker to address new Royal College task force examining technology in health care

OTTAWA, Nov. 6, 2013 /CNW/ - Computers like IBM's Watson will drastically change how future physicians' currently make diagnoses and recommend treatments, says an international expert addressing a new Royal College task force examining how health care can best take advantage of today's technological innovations.

Made famous on Jeopardy!, Watson is a cognitive computing system with the ability to understand natural language, learn from millions of pages of journals rapidly and hypothesize possible medical diagnoses and treatments. Jeffrey Betts, the head of IBM's Chronic Disease Management and Personalized Healthcare activities, will discuss its health care potential as the inaugural speaker at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada's Innovation and Technology Task Force.

"Watson can never replace the expertise, intelligence and experience of a Royal College specialist physician," says Betts. "But it can make sure your physician has the latest information synthesized and available at their fingertips."

One of the problems that doctors currently face is the speed of new information being made available in their field of expertise. Over a million articles were abstracted in PubMed last year, noted Betts. Cognitive computers such as IBM's Watson will enable a physician to analyze the breadth of research and the latest information to help make the best possible diagnosis for their patient.

The question of how to incorporate emerging technologies like Watson into health care delivery and teaching is something that the Royal College would like to answer. On Wednesday, November 6, 2013, the Royal College will officially launch its Task Force on Innovation and Technology, which will explore how the medical system can best employ available, cost-effective technologies that improve Canadian health care.

"To practice effectively now and into the future, we need to have a better understanding of technology trends, and how to leverage them into the health system," said task force co-chair Susan Brien, MD, FRCSC, Royal College director of research, innovation and scholarship. "Health care innovations can play a huge role in enhancing patient communication and information, access to care, education and new practices and tools."

A key function of the Royal College's task force will be to work with industry players in medical innovation and technology, to learn about research and development trends and make suggestions on areas of critical need for specialist physicians.

"The role of the Innovation and Technology Task Force is to improve Canadian health care by supporting specialists in practice with innovative technologies," says Dave Perfetti, the Royal College's chief information officer and task force co-chair. "It's important that we ensure that new technology is incorporated into medical practice and teaching without jeopardizing patient safety. We want to know how and to what degree technologies with implications for medicine should be embraced."

For further information:
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons' Innovation and Technology Task Force meets on November 6 and 7, 2013 in (Fairmont Hotel, Vancouver). Jeffrey Betts will be the keynote speaker at 8 p.m. on November 6, at a dinner held (Fairmont Hotel, Vancouver). The task force meets all day Thursday.

About the Royal College

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada ( is the home of specialty care in Canada, setting the setting the standards for postgraduate medical education, supporting the continuing professional development of 44,000 members, and shaping health system innovations nationwide.

SOURCE: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

For further information:

Media contact: 

Sandy Shearman, Communications Manager
613-730-8177 ext 464,

To learn more about IBM's Watson contact Leslie Plant, IBM External Communications

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