One of the nation's largest health insurers, WellPoint, announced today that it would develop and launch IBM Watson-based solutions to improve patient care. Ever since Watson's noteworthy performance on Jeopardy!, talk has circulated about the supercomputer's potential usefulness as a tool that physicians could use to identify diagnoses and treatment options for patients.

When NASA Tech Briefs polled INSIDER e-newsletter readers last May, 85 percent of respondents thought that technologies like Watson would increasingly play a role in medical treatment. This announcement appears to suggest that they're right on the money.

WellPoint's application will compile data from three sources: a patient's records from the doctor or hospital, the insurance company's history of medicines and treatments, and Watson's library of textbooks and medical journals — and provide precise responses in less than three seconds.

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