IBM Launches Watson Health Cloud, New Health Unit

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2015-04-13 Print this article Print
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IBM's planned acquisition of Cleveland-based Explorys and Dallas-based Phytel—two health care technology companies that apply big data and analytics to help improve the quality of health for individuals and large population groups—will complement its capabilities. Terms were not disclosed for either deal.

Explorys is a 2009 spinoff from the Cleveland Clinic that offers a secure cloud-computing platform used by 26 major integrated health care systems to identify patterns in diseases, treatments and outcomes. It integrates more than 315 billion clinical, financial, and operational data elements, spanning 50 million patients, 360 hospitals and more than 317,000 providers. Market intelligence firm IDC recently recognized Explorys as a global leader in health care clinical and financial analysis.

Phytel provides cloud-based services that help health care providers and care teams meet new health care quality requirements and reimbursement models. The acquisition bolsters IBM's efforts to apply advanced analytics and cognitive computing to help primary care providers, large hospital systems and physician networks improve health care quality and deliver healthier patient outcomes.

Building on IBM's strengths in cognitive computing, analytics, security and cloud, the new Watson Health unit aims to dramatically improve the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers to innovate by surfacing new insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created daily.

The Watson Health Cloud platform allows this information to be anonymized, shared and combined with a dynamic aggregated view of clinical, research and social health data. IBM and its ecosystem of clients, partners and medical researchers can surface new connections between these diverse and previously siloed health care data sets, and spur the creation of a new generation of data-driven applications and solutions designed to advance health and wellness.

The medical community is one of the earliest adopters of Watson cognitive computing technology. IBM has collaborated with leading hospitals and research institutes, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic and the New York Genome Center to advance Watson's health care capabilities and to help transform how medicine is taught, researched and practiced.

Innovative partners, including Welltok, Modernizing Medicine, Pathway Genomics and GenieMD, are already using Watson's cognitive computing capabilities, giving rise to a new breed of health apps that are redefining how individuals and organizations think about personal health management. Cognitive computing systems learn and interact naturally with people to extend what either humans or machines could do on their own. They help human experts make better decisions by penetrating the complexity of big data.

"Watson Health builds on years of collaborative relationships with leaders across the health care ecosystem," Michael Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM Watson, said in a statement. "The groundbreaking applications of Watson's cognitive computing capabilities by medical clients and partners clearly demonstrated the potential to fundamentally change the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of health care delivery worldwide."

IBM will open a headquarters location for the new unit in the Boston area and expand its Watson presence in New York City. Big Blue also will dedicate at least 2,000 consultants, medical practitioners, clinicians, developers and researchers to design, develop and accelerate the adoption of Watson Health capabilities. The new unit will include IBM's existing Smarter Care and Social Programs practice, which was created three years ago following the acquisition of Curam Software, a provider of health and social program management solutions.



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