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New IBM Watson Health unit expected to transform health and wellness




ARMONK, N.Y. — IBM and its significant data analytics capabilities is expected to drive collaborative healthcare innovation with the creation of IBM Watson Health, a new business unit responsible for building and growing the Watson Health Cloud, the company announced Tuesday. The HIPAA-enabled Watson Health Cloud will enable secure access to individualized insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people's health. 


"Watson Health builds on years of collaborative relationships with leaders across the healthcare ecosystem," said Michael Rhodin, SVP, IBM Watson. "The groundbreaking applications of Watson's cognitive computing capabilities by medical clients and partners clearly demonstrated the potential to fundamentally change the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery worldwide. We're excited to broaden access to world-class technology and to work with our partners to transform health and wellness for millions of people."   


IBM will open a headquarters location for the new unit in the Boston area and expand its Watson presence in New York. It will dedicate at least 2,000 consultants, medical practitioners, clinicians, developers and researchers to design, develop and accelerate the adoption of Watson Health capabilities. The new unit will include IBM's existing Smarter Care and Social Programs practice, which was created three years ago following the acquisition of Curam Software, a leading provider of health and social program management solutions.


The future of health is all about the individual, IBM noted. With the increasing prevalence of personal fitness trackers, connected medical devices, implantables and other sensors that collect real-time information, the average person is likely to generate more than one million gigabytes of health-related data in their lifetime (the equivalent of more than 300 million books). 


However, it is difficult to connect these dynamic and constantly growing pools of information with more traditional sources such as doctor-created medical records, clinical research and individual genomes – data sets that are fragmented and not easily shared. A highly scalable and secure global information platform is essential to pull out individualized insights to help people and providers make timely, evidence-based decisions about health-related issues.


"All this data can be overwhelming for providers and patients alike, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform the ways in which we manage our health," stated John Kelly III, IBM SVP, solutions portfolio and research. "We need better ways to tap into and analyze all of this information in real-time to benefit patients and to improve wellness globally. Only IBM has the advanced cognitive capabilities of Watson and can pull together the vast ecosystem of partners, practitioners and researchers needed to drive change, as well as to provide the open, secure and scalable platform needed to make it all possible."


Extending the company's exclusive Watson cognitive computing platform, IBM is:


  • Entering new partnerships with leading companies including Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to help optimize consumer and medical devices for data collection, analysis and feedback;

  • Acquiring Explorys and Phytel to advance its healthcare analytics capabilities; and

  • Establishing a dedicated business unit – IBM Watson Health, to be headquartered in the Boston area.


IBM is collaborating with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to create new health-based offerings that leverage information collected from personal health, medical and fitness devices. The results will be better insights, real-time feedback and recommendations to improve everything from personal health and wellness to acute and chronic care. These relationships are non-exclusive, and IBM anticipates many more companies to leverage the Watson Health Cloud platform.


IBM and Apple will expand their partnership with IBM Watson Health Cloud to provide a secure cloud platform and analytics for Apple's HealthKit and ResearchKit. This will support health data entered by customers in iOS apps and also arm medical researchers with a secure, open data storage solution with access to IBM's most sophisticated data analytics capabilities


Johnson & Johnson will collaborate with IBM to create intelligent coaching systems centered on preoperative and postoperative patient care, including joint replacement and spinal surgery. Solutions will be mobile-based, accessing the Watson Health Cloud and leveraging IBM Watson's cognitive capabilities. 


Johnson & Johnson will also look to launch new health apps targeting chronic conditions, which currently cost consumers as much as 80% of the $7 trillion global healthcare spend.  Medtronic will leverage the Watson Health Cloud insights platform to collaborate with IBM around delivery of new highly-personalized care management solutions for people with diabetes. The solutions will receive and analyze patient information and data from various Medtronic devices including insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, and use this information to provide dynamic, personalized diabetes management strategies to patients and their providers. 


To complement its existing capabilities, IBM has reached agreement to acquire Cleveland-based Explorys and Dallas-based Phytel, two healthcare technology companies that are widely recognized for their leadership in applying Big Data and analytics to help improve the quality of health for individuals and large population groups.


A spin-off from the Cleveland Clinic in 2009, Explorys' secure cloud-computing platform is used by 26 major integrated healthcare systems to identify patterns in diseases, treatments and outcomes. It integrates more than 315 billion clinical, financial, and operational data elements, spanning 50 million unique patients, 360 hospitals and more than 317,000 providers. Market intelligence firm IDC just named Explorys global leader in Healthcare Clinical and Financial Analysis.


Phytel develops and sells cloud-based services that help healthcare providers and care teams work together to ensure care is effective and coordinated in order to meet new healthcare quality requirements and reimbursement models. It was just named the leader in the population health management category by the 2014 Best in KLAS Awards: Software & Services. 


The acquisitions bolster IBM's efforts to apply advanced analytics and cognitive computing to help primary care providers, large hospital systems and physician networks improve healthcare quality and effect healthier patient outcomes.


Terms were not disclosed for either deal.


Building on strengths in cognitive computing, analytics, security and cloud, the new Watson Health unit aims to dramatically improve the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers to innovate by surfacing new insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created daily. 


The Watson Health Cloud platform allows this information
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