The Brigham and Massachusetts General Hospital have teamed up to form the MGH & BWH Center for Clinical Data Sciences (CCDS) to create, promote and commercialize artificial intelligence in health care.
If you’re not sure what artificial intelligence is, you’re not alone. For many outside the tech world, it brings to mind science-fiction movies with sentient cyborgs or IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer that competed in Jeopardy! and beat two prior champions in 2011. The term, also known as AI, refers to a branch of computer science in which machines are trained to perform or simulate human tasks and behaviors.
In health care, this technology is being used for everything from improving the accuracy of diagnostic readings to recognizing patterns of diseases to identifying new candidates for clinical trials. At the CCDS, scientists from BWH and MGH are working on more than 20 projects, including ways to use artificial intelligence to identify cancer cells in pathology images, classify bone age based on X-rays and recognize brain tumor mutations from MRI scans. These projects require providing powerful computers with massive amounts of data that can be organized and analyzed.
The more data available, the more likely computers will be able to, for example, identify patterns and make predictions. This is a type of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, an area where the CCDS is currently focusing its efforts. These applications are overseen and validated by a human expert.
“The combined power of both the Brigham and Mass General will allow the CCDS unprecedented access to the data and clinical expertise required to create real-world applications that empower clinicians and enhance outcomes,” said Giles Boland, MD, chair of the Department of Radiology. “We’re harnessing the power of data so we can put it to work to develop smarter, more efficient ways to care for patients and run our systems.”
The CCDS was founded at MGH last year, but it soon became apparent that making the Brigham an equal partner would benefit all involved, said Mark Michalski, MD, the CCDS’ director. As a result of the collaboration, BWH clinicians and researchers will have greater access to the CCDS’ resources when needed.
“We’re in the golden age of this technology,” Michalski said. “There are great investigators at the Brigham already doing work in this space, and we’re happy to be able to facilitate that so we can start to look at all our data comprehensively. It’s a tremendous opportunity to take two of the best hospitals in the world and make machine learning part of both.”
Before the collaboration was formalized this month, some BWHers were working informally with the CCDS on various projects. Ziad Obermeyer, MD, MPhil, of the BWH Department of Emergency Medicine, has worked with the CCDS on several studies, including one to develop an algorithm to identify signs of a pulmonary embolism too subtle for the human eye to detect.
“Overall, I think we are benefiting enormously from their expertise as well as the data and computing resources, and it’s a real privilege to be working with them,” Obermeyer said.
Learn more about the CCDS.