IBM and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are creating the new Center for Health Empowerment by Analytics, Learning, and Semantics. The center, which will be on the Rensselaer campus in Troy, New York is a five-year collaborative effort aimed at researching how the application of advanced cognitive computing can help people understand and improve their own health conditions.

The idea is to generate insights to help with more effective treatments for individual patients and to create efficiencies in the healthcare system, Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson said in a statement.

“Cognitive computing is poised to transform every profession, industry, and economy, and IBM is committed to helping to solve the world’s biggest health challenges,” added John E. Kelly III, senior vice president, Cognitive Solutions and Research at IBM. 

[Also: Cognitive computing will democratize medicine, IBM Watson officials say]

Watson AI technology will be part of the project.

The team at the center plans to develop cognitive tools that use analytics, knowledge-driven learning, and semantics-based interrogation. The goal is to address data-to-knowledge gaps to enable clinicians and patients to help manage and prevent chronic diseases and conditions.

In addition to developing new computational technologies, RPI researchers at the HEALS center aim to collect relevant clinical and non-clinical knowledge, as well as gather and integrate user-generated data from such sources as individual lifestyle questionnaires, health or wellness data from mobile fitness tracking devices, and social network data from shared online activities.

The challenge lies in the personalized coupling of curated knowledge and individual data, according to James Hendler, director of the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications – IDEA.  Hendler, who will serve as director of the HEALS center, is also the Tetherless World Professor of Computer, Web, and Cognitive Sciences at Rensselaer.

“IBM’s Watson technology has made major inroads in life sciences and health,” Hendler said in a statement. “Our goal now is to use Watson to help clinicians prevent people from developing chronic conditions by providing them with health information customized for their specific medical, environmental, and work/life situations.”

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