IBM, Aetna Join for New Cloud-Based Health Care Support System

Collaborative Care gathers and presents patients' health data from multiple sources to create a detailed, up-to-date record that can be updated in real time to support clinical and emergency health care decisions.

IBM said Aug. 5 that it has joined up with the Aetna insurance company's health IT division, ActiveHealth Management, to launch a new cloud-based patient-records service for physicians and extended-care providers.

Dubbed Collaborative Care, the service gathers and presents patients' health data from multiple sources to create a detailed, up-to-date record that can be updated in real time to support clinical and emergency health care decisions.

Doctors don't always have the updated chart information available when they need to quickly make patient care decisions; patients often have to carry their health history information with them from visit to visit. This service eliminates both of those problems.

"This is one of our first software-as-a-service industry solutions as part of our Blue Cloud initiative, " Rob Merkle, vice president and Health Care Industry leader at IBM's Global Services, told eWEEK. "This will complement and enhance what electronic medical record capabilities provide.

"What's interesting here is that IBM is teaming up with Aetna, which has deep clinical capabilities, and we're taking assets and resources they have and marrying that together with IBM's technology and resources to create this system which basically wraps around and extends EMRs."

Collaborative Care, in effect, is a health information exchange application and service, Merkle said.

"It becomes a comprehensive view of the individual," Merkle said. "Doctors can then take this information and use it against health care best practices. In health care, we call that 'evidence'."

Collaborative Care continuously scans clinical data on patients -- including EMRs, labs, prescriptions, in-patient stays and others -- compares it to recommended guidelines, and sends care alerts to physicians and patients when it detects an opportunity to improve care or prevent a medical problem.

The software package combines information from the above sources with ActiveHealth's evidence-based, clinical-decision support application, CareEngine.

Collaborative Care then delivers the patient records through an IBM cloud computing platform, which is deployed on a subscription basis.

Custom-designed alerts for doctors

Analytics in the system can produce alerts to doctors about patient needs -- singularly or as a group.

"For example, if you're a doctor with a lot of diabetic patients, and you want to look at them all at once and see who might require the most attention at the moment, you can do it in a dashboard-based model with analytics and reporting capabilities," Merkle said.

The U.S. government recently laid out incentives for health care providers to change over paper medical records into digital records, which means that more data than ever will be going online and onto disk and tape storage. The IBM-ActiveHeath package takes advantage of this increasing amount of digital health care information to benefit health care providers, Merkle said.

Sharp Community Medical Group in Southern California will become the first hospital group to deploy Collaborative Care, Merkle said. The system will be rolled out in stages during the next 12 months.

"The current state of medicine today is one of paper records, fragmentation and lack of patient information at the right location and at the right time," said John Jenrette, CEO of Sharp Community Medical Group. "Unfortunately, this is medicine's current state in most organizations and physicians' offices. The patient is not engaged in their own health care and not connected to their clinical information and doctors in an effective manner.

"The work we are undertaking will create a system that is patient-centric. It will provide the connection among primary care physicians, specialty physicians, hospitals and patients to achieve improved clinical outcomes while reducing costs."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...