Roundup: IBM Watson Partnership to Advance Use of Medical Imaging; Nasal Flu Vaccines Not Effective, CDC Says

IBM Watson Health is partnering with 16 health systems and companies globally, including Baptist Health South Florida, to advance the use of medical imaging technology, such as x-rays and MRIs, for diagnosing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other conditions.

Members of the IBM collaborative will put Watson — the famed “supercomputer” system — to work by extracting “unstructured imaging data,” which combined with various other established sources of information can help physicians in making diagnostic and treatment decisions for individual patients. As a cognitive computing system, Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time from previous interactions, IBM states.

“With the ability to draw insights from massive volumes of integrated structured and unstructured data sources, cognitive computing could transform how clinicians diagnose, treat and monitor patients,” said Anne Le Grand, IBM’s vice president of imaging for Watson Health.

Members of the collaborative will work with IBM experts to train Watson on evaluating cardiovascular disease, eye health issues and other conditions using data provided by the alliance members or from “population-based disease registries, which house millions of de-identified cases from around the world,” IBM says.

For example, collaborative members could train Watson to detect cardiovascular disease early and identify commonly overlooked related conditions, such as congestive heart failure or myocardial infarction (heart attack). Cardiologists and primary care doctors could use Watson to better establish which patients with chest pain are at risk of a future heart attack.

In another example, an annual mammogram already linked to a patient’s complete electronic health record can be cross-referenced against similar patients within the Watson database to determine if there are signs of cells that could become malignant, or detect any red flags that a patient could be at higher risk for breast cancer in the future.

“There is strong potential for systems like Watson to help to make radiologists more productive, diagnoses more accurate, decisions more sound and costs more manageable,” said Nadium Michel Daher, a medical imaging and informatics analyst for Frost & Sullivan.


CDC: Don’t Use Nasal Vaccine This Flu Season Because It Doesn’t Work

The nasal spray form of flu vaccines may be easier to take for many kids and adults, but they should not be used this coming flu season, according to a panel of experts advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The reason for not using nasal flu vaccines: The vaccine FluMist has been largely ineffective in children in recent years and should not be used in the United States during the 2016-17 flu season, the panel of experts said. FluMist uses live but weakened strains of the flu virus to stimulate the immune system.

In fact, FluMist was only 3 percent effective last flu season, the CDC said. “In comparison, inactivated influenza vaccine (flu shots) had a vaccine effectiveness estimate of 63 percent against any flu virus among children 2 years through 17 years,” the CDC said.

Nasal spray flu vaccines account for about one-third of all flu vaccines given to children.

Nasal flu vaccines are different from most other vaccines, mostly because their effectiveness varies from year to year — more so than injections — and they must be made fresh each flu season to match circulating strains of influenza, which also change.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reviewed data from the past few flu seasons and found that the nasal vaccine hasn’t worked in recent years.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports the panel’s conclusion. “We do understand this change will be difficult for pediatric practices who were planning to give the intra-nasal spray to their patients, and to patients who prefer that route of administration,” said Dr. Karen Remley, CEO and executive director of the AAP.

The CDC said it will work with vaccine makers throughout the summer to ensure there is enough of the traditional flu vaccine to meet demand for the upcoming season.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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