IBM Watson wants to give you health advice from your local CVS

30 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

CVS And IBM’s Watson Cloud Pursue Ways To Predict Patient Health.

IBM’s ultra-smart super-computer, Watson, seems to be everywhere these days. TOKYO (AP) — The IBM Watson super-brainy computing technology, which has helped organize massive data as well as beaten champions on the Jeopardy TV show, is now learning Japanese.CVS will test International Business Machines Corp.’s technology on existing medical and pharmacy claims data to see if any telling trends surface, said Troyen Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Health.

CVS Health (CVS) and IBM (IBM) say they’ve formed a partnership designed to better predict deteriorating health of the pharmacy giant’s customers through predictive analytics.CVS Health and IBM announced Thursday they will join forces to improve health care management services to patients with chronic diseases with the help of advanced technology. IBM Watson, a unit of the U.S. technology and consulting company, said Thursday it was working with Japanese telecommunications and robotics company Softbank Corp. to share Watson with startups and universities in Japan for a variety of consumer applications, starting October.

IBM’s Watson, the computer giant’s artificial intelligence system, hopes to bring better care coordination and more personalized care to CVS customers and employer clients. The corner store pharmacy giant will use Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing technology, to predict chronic disease patients in danger based on red flag behaviors.

The partnership between the health care company and software company will provide the technology behind IBM’s Watson computing systems to CVS Health practitioners and pharmacists. Under a deal expected to be announced Thursday, the companies will work to develop a system that would be able to provide better personalization of care, prevent the use of unneeded and costly interventions, and even predict health declines for a wide range of conditions including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Watson Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin told reporters that Watson, a cloud-based technology, is an effective tool in handling a large amount of unstructured data, such as clinical tests, information on drugs and regulations in the legal field.

CVS is among a handful of early IBM partners looking to make better use of health-care data with the tech company’s Watson technology, which can analyze troves of information for trends and answer questions in a natural language. Brennan in a statement. “That can help our pharmacy benefit management clients improve member health and manage cost.” Partnering with CVS Health is IBM’s biggest move into mass market health care for Watson yet; previous initiatives have largely centered on oncology and clinical trials. The Watson computing system can access health records, pharmacy information and other resources to help CVS Health employees provide guidance to patients and work with primary care doctors.

On Thursday, IBM and CVS Health announced a major partnership to bring Watson’s cognitive-computing capabilities to the retail drugstore giant’s 7,600 stores and 1,000 walk-in clinics. Health insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group (UNH) and its Optum business, Aetna (AET) and its Healthagen division, Anthem (ANTM) and others already using them to some degree as they manage populations of patients to improve outcomes and keep people healthy and out of the hospital. But unlike our tiny tissue brains, Watson has the capacity to sort through and rapidly compute millions of data points through sophisticated circuitry and software to make those useful connections much faster.

He said he was hopeful “realistic interventions” could be identified in one to two years. “When you go into a cognitive computing approach like this, you’re not sure what you’re going to turn up,” he said. “We’re at the point of scientific discovery, not productization.” Brennan said he could imagine the creation of mobile apps that would integrate information from fitness trackers and allow Watson to identify when a person’s activity level drops substantially and flag that as an indicator of something else going on. Watson recently teamed up with Bon Appetite magazine to create an app that could suggest recipes with the kinds of flavor combinations humans might like to eat, but wouldn’t be readily apparent. Or perhaps act as a virtual adviser for pharmacy or clinic staff that could help them identify “early signals” for when interventions may not be working and additional measures should be considered. Yet Brennan said there’s potentially more that can be done with the data that CVS has accumulated by being the No. 2 manager of pharmacy benefits, after Express Scripts Holding Co. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg Through better technology, health care companies are trying to provide doctors with fast and simple access to health information via electronic medical records and claims data from pharmacies and insurers.

He added that the key to making these types of systems work will be to open lines of communication between a pharmacist, clinic staff and a patient’s physician, and that technology can help facilitate this dialogue. The collaboration also uses IBM Watson Health Cloud, which gathers information on nutrition, medical history and lifestyle, among other factors, to present a personalized look at health. The IBM-CVS partnership comes on the heels of another major coup for CVS — the announcement in June that the retail drug store chain would acquire Target’s pharmacy business for $1.9 billion. Several medical care companies work within what IBM calls the Watson ecosystem, including genieMD’s mobile patient care platform and Point of Care, which allows doctors to access peer-reviewed disease cases on a mobile platform, to pull unrealized health care information from those platforms.

While most of CVS’s in-store clinic customers are seen for cold symptoms, minor injuries or immunizations, the company is hoping to play a greater role in the future in patients’ chronic disease management. Rhodin said the world was undergoing an “information revolution,” flooded with newly generated computer data plus information from social media, including video, and what’s coming from Internet-connected sensors and devices. “Our current tools are incapable of dealing with all of this information,” he said, stressing that filtering and making sense of data has become crucial. “We are looking for the signal in all the noise.” Chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes is the leading cause of death and disability and makes up a large chunk of the roughly $2.9 trillion spent on health care annually in the U.S., according to national health expenditure data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The tech company is relying more on industry-specific partnerships, including ones with Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic Plc, to boost sales, though the company has yet to disclose revenue from any of these ties. CVS has 7,600 retail drugstores, more than 1,000 walk-in medical clinics and pharmacy benefits management programs that touch more than 70 million plan members. The moves are part of a broader effort by IBM to sell more data-analytics and cloud-computing technology to make up for revenue lost due to weakened demand for older products and services. Combined, it has the potential to reach a massive audience that could benefit from Watson’s insights on patient behaviors that go unreported to their doctor. The increased focus on customer wellness comes less than a year after CVS stopped selling cigarettes in their retails stores, rebranded as CVS Health and launched an aggressive campaign to help customers stop smoking.

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