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IBM partners with Apple, J&J, Medtronic; launches Watson Health Cloud

Thanks to fitness trackers, connected medical devices and sundry sensors, the average person will generate roughly one million gigabytes of health-related data in his or her lifetime, the equivalent of 300 million books, according to IBM. The question is, how do you make that data meaningful? IBM thinks it has an answer in former Jeopardy! champ, Watson.

Thanks to fitness trackers, connected medical devices and sundry sensors, the average person will generate roughly one million gigabytes of health-related data in his or her lifetime, the equivalent of 300 million books, according to IBM. The question is, how do you make that data meaningful? IBM thinks it has an answer in former Jeopardy! champ, Watson.

Big Blue announced yesterday that it was establishing a Watson Health Cloud that will serve as a secure and open platform for physicians, researchers, insurers and healthcare-focused companies. It will enable secure access to individualized insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people's health, said IBM in a news release.

IBM Watson

Connecting the dots of medical data that will double every 73 days by 2020 with legacy information from sources such as doctor-created medical records, clinical research and individual genomes is a Herculean task. "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," said John E. Kelly III, IBM Senior Vice President, 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."

Leanne LeBlan
Leanne LeBlanc, IBM Watson Project Manager,
views analytics of healthcare data
at Watson headquarters in New York City.
In addition to the creation of Watson Health Cloud, IBM made a number of related announcements, all of which are intended to extend the Watson cognitive computing platform. The company:
  • entered into new partnerships with leading companies including Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to help optimize consumer and medical devices for data collection, analysis and feedback;
  • acquired Explorys, a Cleveland Clinic spin-off that has established a secure cloud computing platform used by 26 healthcare systems to identify patterns in diseases, treatments and outcomes;
  • acquired Phytel, which develops and sells cloud-based services that help healthcare providers collaborate to ensure care is effective and coordinated in order to meet new healthcare quality requirements and reimbursement models.

The company has also established IBM Watson Health, to be headquartered in the Boston, MA, area, and will expand its presence in New York. At least 2000 employees will be dedicated to the task of designing, developing and accelerating the adoption of Watson Health capabilities, says IBM.

Speaking about the initiative with Matthew Herper at Forbes, Robert Wachter, the author of The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age and Associate Chair of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said: "I think that ultimately somebody's going to figure out how to integrate all these sources of data, analyze them, sort the signal to noise, and when someone can do that, it will improve the health care system.

"Does this do that tomorrow? No. But do we need to create the infrastructure to do that? Yes. And [is IBM] probably the best-positioned company with the best track record to do this? I think so," added Wachter.

TAGS: Medical
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