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Icon Group - Cathie Stuart

Medical company Icon Group launches AI assistant to help oncologists treat cancer patients

Brisbane-based medical oncology group Icon Group has announced a new partnership with artificial intelligence (AI) platform IBM Watson Health, that will see the AI used to help support clinical decision making for cancer patients.

Under the partnership, Icon Group’s network of cancer treatment centres across Australia will receive access to the cognitive computing platform, Watson for Oncology.

A branch of IBM’s Watson AI technology, the oncology-focused AI is built for the purpose of helping oncologists sift through cancer research and literature right across the globe.

Enabling doctors to access the medical spectrum of evidence-supported treatment options and information, the platform is able to help oncologists make informed decision when dealing with patients suffering from breast, lung, colorectal, gastric, cervical, prostate, and ovarian cancer.

Currently, the AI is connecting to more than 300 medical journals, 200 textbooks, and roughly 15 million pages of text regarding treatment options and drug selections. Watson for Oncology is also backed by machine learning, allowing it to update its database based on interactions and build up new information.

Icon Group cofounder and Digital Advisor, Cathie Reid, said the partnership would be key to helping local oncologists make informed decisions about their patients.

“The Icon Group and IBM Watson Health partnership complements our growing portfolio of digital health services, and 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,” she said.

Globally, medical information is predicted to double in quantity every 73 days by 2020, according to a study conducted within the American Clinical and Climatological Association. It’s estimated that 50,000 new oncology research papers are published each year.

“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,” added Reid.

The investment in IBM marks the latest move for Icon Group in supporting ‘equitable’ access to high quality cancer services, with the company establishing 50 percent of its group radiation centres in regional areas.

Dr. Terry Sweeney, IBM Watson Health Led for APAC, said the Icon Group will join the ranks of a leading health organisations across the globe who are using the AI platform to boost oncological expertise.

“Icon Group joins more than 55 health organisations across the world where Watson technologies are making a significant contribution in helping physicians amplify their own expertise to deliver evidence-based care, particularly in clinics that lack specialist expertise across multiple cancer types,” he said.

IBM’s AI platform has seen uptake in a number of other industries beside healthtech, most recently adopted with the National Australia Bank’s digital-only banking service UBank using Watson’s Conversation API to develop RoboChat.

The AI combines machine learning and intuitive language to guide customers through the home loan application, similar to the functionality of Sophie, an AI assistant also built using IBM Watson by Victorian-based startup Online Home Loans.

Image: Cathie Stuart. Source: Supplied.

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