By Thomas M. Dowd, Kirke E. Everson and Jeffrey C. Steinhoff

Information technology transformed everyday life in ways unimaginable just 30 years ago. But it has just scratched the surface of what will be possible. Intelligent automation – the automation of mission delivery and business processes by leveraging digital technologies to support tasks undertaken by knowledge workers – is already dramatically changing how Government does business. Cognitive automation is the most advanced class on the intelligent automation spectrum.

Cognitive Automation

While intelligent automation can substantially reduce operating costs, more important is its ability to improve outcomes and enhance the citizen experience. Cognitive systems can ingest massive amounts of data on which to formulate hypotheses beyond what thousands of human brains could ever handle. Greater consistency, predictability, quality, and data reliability are possible through intelligent systems, working 24/7 365 days a year at digital speed. We saw first hand early stages of cognitive automation when IBM’s Watson defeated Jeopardy’s two greatest champions in 2011.

Potential applications are exploding through innovative technologies. Reasoning cognitive automation mimics human activities, such as perceiving, inferring, gathering evidence, hypothesizing, and reasoning. Just like humans, cognitive systems are taught rather than the traditional approach of programming. The computer is taught the area of interest, or domain. Once baseline domain knowledge is established, the cognitive system continues to learn and solve problems within that domain; generally, on its own.

With early artificial intelligence, the challenge was making the systems ‘smart’. Expert knowledge bases were built by interviewing experts and capturing knowledge using specially-designed languages. This was extremely difficult and almost impossible to maintain. With advances in natural language processing, computers are now able to read and extract meaningful information from unstructured data. This capability drives cognitive automation. It’s widely held that 80 percent of the world’s data is unstructured, and 90 percent has been created in recent years. The ability to meaningfully consume this data and build associated knowledge ontologies changes the game.

Improving Healthcare Outcomes And The Citizen Experience

Let’s consider two applications where cognitive automation can positively impact health care outcomes and the citizen experience.

Health Diagnosis

Today, doctors typically examine the patient, review patient medical records and test results, and consider perhaps several dozen similar cases and familiar treatment protocols. They may even consult with peers before recommending a treatment plan.

Through reasoning cognitive automation, the doctor examines the patient and submits medical records and test results to a “cognitive medical consultant” (CMC). The CMC accesses the world universe of similar cases, evaluates millions of test results, and leverages research and known and experimental treatment protocols. The CMC analyses the totality of available knowledge to develop a diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. Armed with this information, and applying technical knowledge, experience, and intuition, the doctor recommends a treatment plan. CMC’s also facilitate value-based programs that reward providers for the quality of care, supporting the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ goals of better care for individuals, better health for populations, and lower cost.

The evolvement of Watson provides a window into what’s possible today. Trained at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Watson for Oncology is now being used at more than 30 hospitals and health systems worldwide, such as in countries with high cancer rates and insufficient cancer specialists. Watson and boards of cancer experts have a 90 percent agreement rate, with Watson identifying more actionable diagnostic and treatment data 30 percent of the time.

Citizen Experience

Reasoning cognitive automation can also revolutionize the citizen experience through each channel of communications, including mobile consultations, call centers, and targeted outreach. We’ve all experienced the frustrations of wading through voice prompts to reach a call center agent, only to be put on hold or not receive the needed help. What if you could immediately speak with an expert, who has a world of knowledge that can be immediately recalled, processed, analysed, and applied to real-life situations? What if the nature and urgency of your call could be immediately determined through sentiment, tone, and personality analysis to trigger appropriate responses to an emergency or understand when the caller is frustrated and the matter needs to be elevated? And what if it was like talking to a real person where more than a yes/no answer could be conveyed? Stay tuned because cognitive solutions can dramatically improve how Government serves citizens.

Final Thoughts

Cognitive automation does not replace the human element of the highly-trained physicians and call center agents in the above examples. Rather, it enables people to do their jobs better with improved outcomes. This opens new doors in patient care and the citizen experience.


About the Authors:

Tom Dowd, Principal and KPMG Federal Healthcare Sector leader, has served federal health agencies for over two decades.




Kirke Everson, a Managing Director in KPMG’s Federal Advisory Practice, leads KPMG’s Intelligent Automation Services for Government, with extensive experience in technology enablement and information security.




Jeff Steinhoff, Managing Director of the KPMG Government Institute, served as Assistant Comptroller General of the United States for Accounting and Information Management at GAO during a 40-year Federal career.



About the Company: KPMG’s Federal Healthcare practice understands the pace and complexity of change in healthcare. We bring the experience to accelerate, protect, and enhance the value of change. In adopting intelligent automation, government needs partners that can help integrate technology with business processes and systems. KPMG is a recognized pioneer in providing intelligent automation solutions across a spectrum of sectors, including health care. Our knowledge of use cases and deep public sector experience enables KPMG to advise clients throughout their intelligent automation journey, from discovery through implementation.

KPMG International’s Trademarks are the sole property of KPMG International and their use here does not imply auditing by or endorsement of KPMG International or any of its member firms.



  1. I strongly believe in such approach as a matter of fact I had 2 pending patents for Healthcare Automation. 1- for the architecture solution, and the other – 2 for Doctor On Chip to diagnose patient remotely. Please take a look at my LinkedIn to get familiar with my expertise . I will be more than happy to have a discussion with you about this subject. Good Luck and take care.


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