IBM Israel Develops 'Big Databases' To Help Epilepsy Patients

Israeli IBM scientists explain about applying cognitive technologies to huge databases, in the framework of medical research for people suffering from epilepsy.

al-monitor The IBM logo is seen outside the company's offices in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, Oct. 24, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Nir Elias.

Topics covered

technology, medicine, israel

Oct 10, 2013

IBM has completed the initial phase of a joint project with the Belgian pharmaceutical company UCB, which is designed to harness the power of analytics to help health care providers deliver personalized services to people suffering from epilepsy.

The project will use cognitive computing capabilities, such as IBM’s Watson, to improve health care for epilepsy patients. In the framework of the project, researchers are developing a system that translates massive amounts of patient data and an in-depth review of the scientific literature into insights that health care providers would be able to consult in real time, and which would thus allow them to take informed decisions concerning the preferred treatment.

According to Dr. Michal Rosen-Zvi, senior manager of the analytics department at IBM Research Lab in Haifa, studies are increasingly showing that advanced analysis tools are highly valuable in generating new insights from medical data.

In the study under discussion, a team of researchers analyzed data relating to a large number of epilepsy patients. Preliminary research results indicate that a careful study of the results of various treatments administered to patients with a similar history and selection of the treatment that yielded the best results among similar patients may significantly improve the results of the treatment given to the patients.

According to Dr. Iris Low-Friedrich, executive vice president of global projects and development and chief medical officer at UCB, “UCB focuses on the creation of innovative networks, because we recognize that delivering best-in-class solutions to patients requires collaboration with a diverse group of internal and external experts. We have partnered with IBM to explore this concept of streamlining large amounts of data into actionable approaches to epilepsy care.”

Personalized care based on data analysis

Epilepsy is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system, which currently afflicts some 65 million people around the world. A recent special issue of [the medical journal] The Lancet highlighted the unmet medical needs in epilepsy and called on public health officials to treat this disease as a global health priority.

IBM expects that deeper insights into the epilepsy patient population could potentially provide millions of patients with more personalized care and ultimately improved outcomes. This novel approach will help seed the foundation for the potential to leverage cognitive computing, natural language processing and machine learning capabilities to raise the standard of care in epilepsy.

Said Rosen-Zvi: “Applying cognitive science technologies — specifically machine learning — to huge patient databases that are characterized as ‘big data’ heralds the upcoming revolution in the way we deliver and receive medical treatment. IBM is cultivating a large team of researchers and enables a wide variety of studies of this technology, which is expected to arm physicians with information that would help them identify and implement the best possible treatment options and improve quality of care for patients suffering from epilepsy.”

As part of its open sharing model, UCB may collaborate with other leading organizations in the health care community and in the field of epilepsy treatment, so as to develop and broaden the reach of this project.

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