Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

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IBM Watson Expands Role in Imaging Analytics, Population Health

IBM Watson Health is expanding its healthcare-focused offerings, including tools for imaging analytics, value-based care, and population health management.

IBM population health, imaging analytics

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- ORLANDO – IBM Watson is continuing to make its presence felt in the healthcare industry by launching a slew of new machine learning and artificial intelligence initiatives focused on care coordination, advanced imaging analytics, and population health management.

The Watson Health division will use its cognitive computing power to dig into the potential of unstructured data to provide actionable insights and clinical decision support to providers engaging in the delivery of value-based care.  

"The idea of cognitive healthcare – systems that learn – is real, and it's already mainstream," said IBM CEO Ginni Rometty in her opening keynote address to a packed auditorium at the 2017 HIMSS Convention and Exhibition.  "Information technology can change almost everything about healthcare." 

Imaging analytics has been a major area of interest for IBM since its $1 billion acquisition of Merge Healthcare in 2015.  Since then, Watson Health has partnered with a number of vendors and provider partners to develop tools that can aid diagnosticians in their detailed, complex work. 

The company announced a significant expansion of its imaging analytics collaborative, adding provider organizations including Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia Health System to its group of founding members. 

“The medical imaging collaborative is vital to Watson’s ongoing training and the development of cognitive imaging solutions to address the world’s pressing health challenges,” said Anne Le Grand, vice president of Imaging for Watson Health. “Members of the collaborative helped design and curate data for Watson Imaging Clinical Review, which we debut today at the HIMSS17 conference.” 

This week, Watson Health will debut its Clinical Imaging Review offering, which will help providers identify aortic stenosis (AS) patients in the early stages of the condition.  The tool will expand to cover other conditions in the future, including myocardial infarction, deep vein thrombosis, and cardiomyopathy. 

The company also announced partnerships with several major care providers, including Atrius Health and the Central New York Care Collaborative (CNYCC).

Atrius Health will work with Watson to develop a cloud-based care planning tool harnessing Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities.  The partnership will allow Atrius providers to access insights into patients’ health status and goals directly within the electronic health record, making it easier to deliver targeted, informed, value-based care. 

“Atrius Health is committed to increasing the joy in the practice of medicine for our clinicians and staff,” said Steve Strongwater, MD, President and CEO of Atrius Health. “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."   

"We anticipate this partnership will increase our ability to reliably identify and close care gaps to improve the quality and safety of ambulatory clinical care.” 

CNYCC will also help IBM translate its machine learning chops into real-world applications.  The organization will work with Watson to create a population health management system to connect more than 2000 providers across six New York counties with the goal of reducing state Medicaid spending by slashing the number of avoidable hospital admissions by 25 percent. 

“Our mission at CNYCC is to improve the health of our community by coordinating services and building partnerships throughout the healthcare system,” said Virginia Opipare, CEO, CNYCC.  

“The ability of our providers to access critical healthcare information through a Watson-powered, cloud-based population health management platform is the optimal foundation for this transformational work. The PHM System will meet our current needs and scale to keep pace with the evolving needs of the patient population we serve. And, because it is a cognitive system, it learns as it goes and will return increasing value to the region over time.” 

The solution aims to integrate data from multiple types of providers, including hospitals, physicians, and behavioral healthcare professionals. 

“When it comes to value-based healthcare, the train has left the station. It is here, and hospitals need to be implementing it. Central New York is leading the way for a national movement toward an effective, scalable patient-centric approach to population health management and value-based care,” said Anil Jain, MD, FACP, VP and Chief Health Informatics Officer, Value-Based Care, IBM Watson Health.  

“This is about identifying high risk individuals and using Watson-based tools and services to help providers engage with patients to improve health. As the healthcare industry shifts away from fee-for-service to a value-based system, care providers need integrated solutions that help them gain a holistic view of each individual within a population of patients.” 

The partnerships signal that IBM Watson, which has primarily made headlines for its precision medicine activities thus far, is headed for more mainstream applications within the industry.   

Value-based care and population health management are predicted to become even more important over the next few years as reimbursement structures begin to better align with regulatory frameworks, spurring additional  investment from providers. 

Healthcare organizations will be able to add even more new IBM Watson products to their portfolio of options, including a provider performance tool, patient engagement manager, and financial analytics offering designed to ease the adoption of bundled payments. 

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