Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

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IBM Watson Health Teams Up with Hospitals for AI, EHR Research

IBM Watson Health is investing in new partnership that will focus on the intersection between artificial intelligence, EHR data, and the user experience.

EHR data, artificial intelligence, and hospital research

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- IBM Watson Health has announced a ten-year, $50 million investment in artificial intelligence (AI) research partnerships with Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).

The two collaborations will explore how to use artificial intelligence to improve EHR usability, support precision medicine, bolster patient safety, and foster health equity across communities.

“Building on the MIT-IBM Watson Lab announced last year, this collaboration will include contributions from IBM Watson Health's longstanding commitment to scientific research and our belief that working together with the world's leading institutions is the fastest path to develop, advance, and understand practical solutions that solve some of the world's biggest health challenges,” said Kyu Rhee, MD, MPP, vice president and chief health officer at IBM Watson Health.

“By putting the full force of our clinical and research team together with two of the world's leading academic medical centers, we will dramatically accelerate the development of real-world AI solutions that improve workflow efficiencies and outcomes.”

Researchers at BWH and VUMC will also focus on how human users interact with artificial intelligence technologies and how these emerging tools can reduce some of the administrative burdens that contribute to frustration and burnout in the clinical space.

“Today, for example, physicians are spending an average of two hours with their electronic health records and deskwork for every hour of patient care, a phenomenon the American Medical Association says is leading to a steady increase in physician burnout,” said Rhee.

“AI is the most powerful technology we have today to tackle issues like this one, but there is still a great deal of work to be done to demystify the real role of AI in healthcare with practical, proven results and clear-cut best practices.”

David Bates, MD, MS, chief of general internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, agreed with the urgent need to leverage AI and machine learning to extract value from existing data sets and improve user experiences.

“We all know that the future of health belongs to AI but today health around the globe is siloed and not actionable, making timely insights difficult to obtain,” he said. “Through AI, we have an opportunity to do better, and our hope is to find new ways through science and partnerships with industry leaders like Watson Health to unlock the full potential of AI to improve the utility of the EHR and claims data to address major public health issues like patient safety.”

Partners HealthCare, of which Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a member, has an established interest in advancing artificial intelligence in the healthcare environment. 

The health system has a thriving research and development culture that focuses on reducing inefficiencies, supporting evidence-based decision making, and improving overall quality and outcomes.

VUMC, as well, is no stranger to EHR and AI innovation. The academic medical center has engaged in numerous partnership and research projects aimed at a variety of challenging issues, including streamlining workflows, leveraging genomic data to personalize care, and reducing care disparities.

One of VUMC’s more recent initiatives is a collaboration with GE Healthcare around using AI to develop tailored immunotherapy for cancer patients.  The five-year project will create predictive analytics and diagnostic tools to support clinical decision making.

The partnership with IBM Watson Health builds on these themes, said Kevin Johnson, MD, MS, chair of the department of biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt.

“I have committed my career to using health information technologies to deliver precision medicine, promote health equity, and understand the human-machine interface and opportunities to improve public health,” he said.

“As the largest biomedical informatics department in the US, we have been a longstanding leader in understanding the role and potential of new technologies like AI. We are excited to work with a leader like IBM Watson Health and we look forward to expanding the relationship as Watson Health continues to grow.”

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