Watson Health is developing a cloud-based database of anonymous health data to benefit researchers and fuel precision medicine.
What we are seeing emerge now is a two-pronged trend in analyzing healthcare data: collaboration and consolidation. Collaboration between entities and individuals is key to finding important data and cures. Consolidation of data and efforts is key to making everything in healthcare be all that it can be.
A prime example of the benefits in both of these approaches is the newly announced Watson Health, a global analytics cloud built upon the now-famous Watson cognitive computing muscle, but also augmented by other entities.
Watson Health is the result of a couple of important acquisitions and prior health data analysis efforts by IBM, and a partnership between IBM, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic.
Why Watson Health is a potential industry game-changer
Watson Health Cloud is an open source, secure platform where researchers and providers can share and analyze health data specifically to improve both individual and collective patient outcomes.
"This venture is another step towards bringing Big Data solutions to Healthcare,” Venkat Rajan, Industry Manager and analyst at Frost & Sullivan told me. "Big Data itself is a very broad and abstract term, to a degree that the term is often used to refer to various different aspects of information collection and analysis. At a macro level a great deal of the challenges we face in healthcare are related to management of information and translating the relevancy of that information into actionable insights."
"The Watson platform is particularly adept at cognitive computing, which enables it to tackle large volumes of unstructured data,” he continued. “In healthcare the vast majority of information is unstructured data. It exists in various forms from patient history and biometric data to qualitative patient notes from a doctor or caregiver. This platform can integrate these various information streams—patient health records, academia, etc.—in a manner that can be more practical."
And indeed, it is a very practical way to go about breaking down data silos so the data can be more widely and easily shared between those that need the information the most.
Cognitive computing, i.e. Watson, makes the analytics all the easier to use since it is designed to aid those who are not data scientists or masters of statistics.
Given the ease of access to a much larger data set, the ease of use in its analytics, and the collaborative groups behind it, Watson Health stands to be an early industry game changer.
Cobbling Watson Health into an innovative powerhouse
Watson, an artificially intelligent computer, first became a household name when it won a game of Jeopardy against human competitors. Watch that history making event in the video below.
Now it is being applied to the Watson Health initiative where it is being additionally fed by data and processes from two recent IBM acquisitions, Explorys and Phytel. Explorys will provide clinical, claims, billing, accounting, devices, community, and patient data to the effort. Phytel brings coordinated care systems to the table that help meet reimbursement and patient outcome requirements.
Combined with that massive collection of capabilities and data are collaborations with Apple – through its HealthKit and ResearchKit for Apple Watch – and with Johnson & Johnson, on developing intelligent health coaching systems for preoperative and postoperative patient care; and with Medtronic, on personalized care for diabetics.
"The noted partners each tell a unique story of how this platform can be used in healthcare,” Frost & Sullivan’s Rajan told me. “Apple represents a consumer- centric play; targeting every day users interested in their health and well-being. Medtronic represents some unique applications for personalized management of chronic diseases, in this case diabetes. J&J's involvement seems to be centered more on clinical solutions targeting caregivers and connecting them with their patients."
And that’s just for starters. Watson Health will keep building from here on.
"For a few years now, IBM has been working with leading industry participants and prominent hospitals on pilot programs and proof-of-concept type work in healthcare,” said Rajan. “This announcement signals the start of more widespread and commercial use of those tools."
Expect more collaborations and data pooling to start appearing on the scene. Those are key to leveraging health data to maximum effect.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.