Cognitive Computing: The Golden Era for Healthcare

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“We’re at a profoundly hopeful moment in history,” said Ginni Rometty, President and CEO of IBM, at the HIMSS 2017 keynote address on Monday, February 20. This hopeful moment is what Rometty calls the Cognitive Era. Aided by advanced technology and driven by curious minds, the Cognitive Era could be the next golden era of healthcare if we refine our understanding of data, transparency, and what makes powerful teams.

Data is a natural resource

New healthcare data is created every second, every day, and 80% of overall data is not searchable on the web. That leaves countless amounts of raw information left unanalyzed, with potential discoveries hidden within. Rometty compared this data abundance to the world’s natural resources. “Data is the world’s next oil,” said Rometty, “you have lots of it, but the value comes when you refine it.” It will be the responsibility of those in the healthcare industry to prioritize the analysis of this ever increasing resource.

Transparency builds trust in technology

In her keynote address, Rometty explored the important question, “How do you build trust in cognitive algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare?” Many have their concerns that this type of computer learning dissolves the need for human thinking, but Rometty argues the contrary. “AI is not man vs. machine,” Rometty said, “It’s meant to augment human intelligence with doctor’s intelligence.”

The key to building trust in these emerging fields is to ensure transparency throughout the process. We need to make sure that all caregivers understand that their cognitive abilities are what deepen the insights generated by technology. Rometty reinforced that you need technology and human values in order to make transparent progress. “Digital is a foundation for everything,” said Rometty, “but your competitive advantage will be the ability to be cognitive.”

Intermountain Healthcare’s Zero Harm Initiative relies on this type of cognitive pairing. Our caregivers utilize cutting-edge technologies every day to provide extraordinary care to our patients. But we can’t count on technology alone. The Zero Harm Initiative encourages caregivers to stop and think if the course of action employed for each patient is the best one – if it will result in zero harm to the patient. We know that coupling technology and caregiver cognition together like this contributes to better outcomes.

Look for endless curiosity

In the Cognitive Era, building powerful teams will look different. Rometty explained that the key trait she looks for when hiring new team members is endless curiosity. It’s this constant quest for new understanding that will help propel healthcare forward. Rometty encouraged all those seeking the “New Collar” job – not blue collar or white collar – of the Cognitive Era to never let someone else define who you are. “[It’s] unbelievable the productivity you get with authenticity and transparency,” said Rometty, “Opportunities are endless.” Finally, she gave all a call to action to live by: “Don’t be tentative. This is a time to play offense. You can build this world.”