IBM Watson Health’s Dramatic Expansion

Cognitive computing powerhouse IBM Watson Health is adding novel offerings and entering new agreements in an array of healthcare arenas.

This week, IBM Watson Health announced a slew of solutions and partnerships aimed at improving healthcare decision making and delivery. The announcement, which was released during a major gathering for the health IT community--the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference--covers offerings focused on value-based care, medical imaging, and population health.

"Healthcare organizations are operating in a complex and fluctuating business environment, one in which the insights they need to succeed can be hidden amidst an avalanche of disparate and siloed data," Deborah DiSanzo, general manager of IBM Watson Health, said in a press release. She added, "Watson Health's extensive industry expertise informs how we deploy data, cloud, and cognitive computing to help clients make more informed decisions today and understand precisely what their organization should address to achieve their quality care goals and outcomes in a value-based care system."

Among the new products is the IBM Watson Health Value-Based Care solutions. Applications set to be released later in 2017 include solutions that help track and forecast value-based care performance indicators, monitor patient engagement, customize analytics, and tools that can help pinpoint areas of high cost.

IBM also unveiled IBM Watson Imaging Clinical Review, choosing to focus first on aortic stenosis. The offering is designed to alert clinicians to patients who may have aortic stenosis but haven't been identified as a candidate for cardiovascular follow up care, according to a press release. The platform is expected to eventually be expanded to nine more cardiovascular diseases, including cardiomyopathy, deep vein thrombosis, heart attacks, among others.

"Out of the gate, this type of cognitive tool may provide big benefits to hospitals and doctors, providing insights we don't currently have and doing so in a way that fits how we work," Ricard Cury, MD, director of cardiac imaging at Baptist Health of South Florida and chairman and CEO of Radiology Associates of South Florida, said in the release.

Cury's institutions are among the new members of the Watson Health medical imaging collaborative, focused on optimizing the applications of medical imaging. IBM announced in the imaging release that there are now 24 organizations in the collaborative.

Another agreement announced the same day will bring the more than 2000 healthcare providers of the Central New York Care Collaborative (CNYCC) onto a population health platform run on the Watson Health Cloud. The effort aims to cut Medicaid costs and preventable emergency room visits, as well as cut hospital readmissions by 25%, according to a news release.

"Central New York is leading the way for a national movement toward an effective, scalabe patient-centric approach to population health management and value-based care," Anil Jain, MD, FACP, vice president and chief health informatics officer, Value-Based Care at IBM Watson Health, said in the release.

IBM Watson Health also signed on to an agreement with a healthcare organization, Atrius Health. The collaboration will center around more information that can be used to facilitate shared decision making and improve delivery of patient care in the eastern Massachusetts region covered by the healthcare organization.

"Atrius Health is committed to increasing the joy in the practice of medicine for our clinicians and staff," Steve Strongwater, MD, president and CEO of Atrius Health, said in a news release. "Working with IBM Watson Health offers a unique opportunity to help our Atrius Health clinicians make greater use of the mountains of digitalized information generated daily through our care of patients."

Of course, there's more to these new collaborations than the exciting potential of the technology. Forbes reported recently that a partnership between IBM Watson and MD Anderson has been paused, highlighting the important role that project management and finances--in addition to the technology--play in the success of such a joint effort.

IBM Watson Health already has an impressive list of collaborations under its belt, including with Quest Diagnostics, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, and Memorial Sloan Kettering. More partnerships seem likely, as IBM also debuted its Watson Health Consulting Services unit and new features for its Watson Platform for Health Cloud this week. These offerings echo IBM Watson Health's other priorities, with a continued focus on quicker, better insights, improved patient care, and value-based care.

"The launch of the new Watson Health Consulting Services unit is about helping our clients transform healthcare, in quality, improved access, patient satisfaction and lower cost in the cognitive healthcare era," Matt Porta, vice president and partner for IBM Watson Health Consulting Group, said in the release

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