IBM to Transform Health Care


Big Blue is teaming up with Apple, Inc.,  Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to revolutionize access to the medical industry’s expanding volume of data. Utilizing partnerships and strategic acquisitions, the IBM initiative seeks to transform health care by developing artificial intelligence solutions using the company’s Watson technology.  IBM has launched Watson Health for the purpose of combining and analyzing health data sourced from the cloud. The goal is to deliver meaningful computational results to both medical industry participants and individual patients.

IBM announced it is acquiring two start-up companies to support the Watson Heath initiative.  The company will buy the Cleveland Clinic patient-data-mining spin-off Explorys and the Dallas-based patient management software-maker Phytel.

Aligning factors propelling Big Blue to pursue industry-specific application of Watson Technology include advancements in artificial intelligence, low-cost cloud computing, improved connectivity and public health policy.  The investments the company is making suggest that IBM is committed to future growth, although it is expected that revenues will be slow to follow.

IBM executives see Watson Heath as a means of meeting their objective of commercializing the technology within a specific industry.  They acknowledge reasonable privacy concerns arise when considering how patient data will be accessed, stored and processed.  IBM’s transformative heath care efforts seek to improve individual care by combining and analyzing health-related data with anonymous patient information stored on healthcare-provider-maintained data systems.

Transforming health care by advancing medical information technology will require cooperation and steady innovation.  IBM partnerships pave the way to develop solutions focused on keeping patients healthy.

Apple is continually introducing a variety of health-related hardware and software advancements in the form of sensors and apps by integrating them into their products, such as the iPhone and Apple Watch.  Their recent introduction of the ReserarchKit and HealthKit software platforms enable ethical collection of health data by applications and researchers. Apple’s partnership with the Watson Health initiative makes possible the ability to use analytics derived by harvesting and processing heath information collected from millions of Apple customers to develop new heath-related solutions.

Johnson & Johnson will focus on improving health in knee and hip replacement patients. They will use Watson Heath technology to develop personalized care solutions for patients before and after their knee or hip replacement surgery by analyzing data collected from fitness devices and smart-phone applications.

Large medical device manufacturer Medtronic sees an opportunity to use Watson Health technology to advance care for patients using their digital devices to manage diabetes. The company seeks to develop solutions that identify patients trending toward trouble and automatically adjust insulin doses while alerting them and their health care provider.

It is clear that the amount of information in the health industry is exploding. IBM is not the only company to that sees opportunity.  NantHealth is a start-up backed by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong that seeks to provide cloud based solutions that use data collected from connected in-home devices used to monitor and transmit valuable patient-data.  Flatiron Heath is another company focusing on analytics relating to cancer.

Enabling collaboration is a key to improving health care when considering the benefits of managing the vast amounts medical information being generated in the digital age.  IBM’s Watson Health initiative sets in motion a transformative force.

By Jeff Pierce



 New York Times


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