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Inside Manipal Hospitals' Watson-enabled treatment for cancer patients

Inside Manipal Hospitals' Watson-enabled treatment for cancer patients

A team of doctors and tech experts is breathing new life into cancer treatment in India with the help of Watson. 

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According to the World Health Organization, cancer is one of the leading causes of death amongst adults in India. Even though cancer treatment is now widely available, there are a limited number of oncologists across India.

“Currently, with just 1600 oncologists across India, oncologists are stretched to keep themselves abreast of the best treatments possible for their patients,” says Nandkishor Dhomne, VP-IT and CIO, Manipal Health Enterprises.

Manipal Hospitals tied up with IBM's Watson for Oncology to provide personalized treatment for cancer patients.

IBM Watson uses machine learning and as it gets trained with more patients, it self-learns to provide better treatment recommendations.

Using artificial intelligence to solve local problems

Dhomne says that the solution was deployed in all Manipal Hospitals with cancer facilities by a team that included clinical, technology and pharmacy experts.

This team worked closely with IBM’s global Watson team to understand and implement the Watson for Oncology solution according to the local challenges faced by Indian doctors.

The team coordinated with Manipal corporate hospitals and doctors and staff of teaching hospitals, as well as with clinical and technology experts in the IBM team globally, he says.

“The team stretched itself to adapt to multiple global time zones, and developed solutions that would work across a variety of HIS systems,” Dhomne adds.

At teaching hospitals, despite there being no EMR-based HIS, Manipal designed an indigenously developed system that the doctors could use.

A cost feature was designed in co-ordination with IBM, which would help doctors share cost information of each chemotherapy regime, thereby helping the patient be aware of treatment costs.

Personalized care

Dhomne points out, “The team has devised a way to share Watson treatment statistics and information with the patient by automatically generating personalized PDF files that the patient can carry later with him.”

The solution integrates all patient data, including demographic information and lab reports, which are automatically pulled by the HIS system and sent to Watson. This enables doctors to access patient information easily through the system.

When it comes to cancer treatment, cost is always a cause of alarm for patients. “An intelligence cost calculator was developed that would determine chemotherapy treatment specific to a patient’s clinical parameters,” says Dhomne.

AI in healthcare is not new, but as Watson trains with more patients, it will get better and better at creating personalized treatment plans that can be relied upon, making it much more useful for hospitals.