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Modernizing Medicine, supercomputer Watson team up

MMI-Logo_RGB_300pxModernizing Medicine, a provider of electronic medical record systems for specific specialty practices, is joining an elite group of companies creating applications fueled by the cognitive computing intelligence of IBM’s supercomputer Watson.

Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine is developing a Watson-powered app, called schEMA, that's designed to help dermatologists offer optimal treatment options.

One out of four dermatologists in the nation are already using Modernizing Medicine’s Electronic Medical Assistant, or EMA, an iPad application to improve patient interaction and healthcare outcomes, said Daniel Cane, CEO and founder of Modernizing Medicine. As an enhancement to EMA, schEMA will combine the best of EMA’s big data processing with Watson’s cognitive ability to help doctors by answering medical questions at the point of care.

“We aren’t taking the doctor out of the drivers seat,” said Cane, who founded the company with Dr. Michael Sherling, a dermatologist. “We are going to make Watson the ultimate research assistant and the ultimate collaborator to help determine a course of treatment.”

Utilizing cognitive computing and natural language processing, schEMA comprehends published healthcare information, such as peer-reviewed medical journals, to enable physicians to ask questions about conditions, treatments and outcomes and get back answers in seconds, Cane said. The goal is to strengthen physician’s recommendations and enable them to efficiently practice evidence-based medicine. Cane hopes to have schEMA on the market by the end of the year.

“We are one of the first in the world to get access to this cognitive computing capability,” said Cane. “This is an entirely new era of computing ... where the machine is able to do a lot of that reasoning itself, and to understand the context of the question, what the possible answers in the known universe are and to instantaneously choose the best answer. It is almost mind boggling where this can lead.”

With access to Watson, Modernizing Medicine in only a two-week period built a fully functional prototype, teaching Watson everything it could about psoriasis, said Cane. “Watson gets incredibly good at conversational style questions and answers. So when our dermatologist asked about a certain treatment, ...Watson can say here is the answer and here’s the journal it came from and here’s the citations and with one touch on the iPad, it can all be cited in the patient’s record.”

Three years after its victory on Jeopardy!, Watson is no longer just the world's most famous game-playing computer. Friday’s news about Modernizing Medicine becoming one of just eight companies so far selected for the IBM Watson Ecosystem is part of IBM’s $1 billion project to bring Watson to the masses.

IBM has already put Watson to work in various industries. In healthcare, for instance, IBM is co-developing an application with MemorialSloan-KetteringCancerCenter, and partnering with WellPoint, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, IBM executives explained during a presentation during eMerge Americas Techweek in Miami Beach last week. IBM also has partnered with numerous colleges and universities across the country to teach Watson capabilities and cognitive computing technology to the next generation workforce.

“The power of Watson is a game-changing proposition. Since we established a Watson developer ecosystem, we've seen the creativity flow from entrepreneurs around the world with business-changing ideas for the Watson technology,” said Michael Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM Watson Group. “Imagine a new class of apps that deliver deep insights to consumers and business users instantly -- wherever they are -- over the cloud. Today, with the help of startups, partners and students, that vision is quickly becoming a reality."

Modernizing Medicine, which launched in 2010, is already a South Florida success story with about 180 employees and $17.5 million in yearly revenue. Along with dermatology, the company also provides its EMA for the specialties of ophthalmology, plastic surgery, orthopedics and otolaryngology and is expanding into gastroenterology, urology and rheumatology.

Last week the company won the eMerge Techweek Launch Competition for later-stage companies, which carried a prize of $100,000 in cash and services. Cane announced he would be donating the winnings to organizations that are helping the entrepreneurial community, including FloridaAtlanticUniversity’s Tech Runway, the C. Scott Ellington Technology Business Incubator at the ResearchPark at FAU, Venture Hive in downtown Miami and FloridaInternationalUniversity.