IBM continues to expand its footprint in China with a new focus on the health care industry in the country.
Hoping to tap into the opportunity afforded by China’s large, aging population, IBM recently announced a move to take its Watson cognitive computing platform into the Chinese market. The company also announced plans to create a new cloud-based health care solution for a Chinese hospital based on IBM’s LinuxONE enterprise servers.
IBM teamed up with Bodhi Healthcare Group to build the new cloud platform for the technology branch of Qingdao Municipal Hospital Group. The new solution will integrate health data to help doctors provide more personalized care to patients. Bodhi Healthcare Group is part of the BAHEAL Pharmaceutical Holdings network.
Gary Shih, vice president of server solutions and hardware systems for IBM Greater China Group (GCG), said Bodhi Healthcare sought the LinuxONE-based system for its security, among other things.
“There is a proliferation of medical data in health systems around the world,” Shih said in a statement. “The healthcare providers that Bodhi Medical Group supports needed a solution that helped them integrate and draw insights from previously siloed data. This local cloud environment based on our leading infrastructure technology helps meet hospitals’ security needs while supporting them as they transform through technology.”
The cloud solution, which enables doctors to use tablet computers for patient care, supports all phases of the doctor-patient process, from screening to diagnosis and treatment as well as management, according to IBM.
“We believe data is the future of the healthcare industry,” said Fu Gang, founder of BAHEAL and chairman of Bodhi Healthcare Group, in a statement. “With the current accelerated transformation of the healthcare industry, we want to utilize advanced technical capabilities to enable smarter health care, improve the overall capabilities of physicians with a professional cloud platform, enhance communication between physicians and their patients and promote the creation of a proactive health care system through the cloud and mobile technology model.”
IBM introduced its LinuxONE Linux-only enterprise servers in August 2015. Earlier this year, Sichuan Nanchong Dangdai Transport Industry Group, a large passenger bus company in China’s Sichuan province, announced a new e-ticketing solution powered by the IBM LinuxONE platform. The new system enables customers to purchase tickets through the company’s website, mobile app, social media or vending machines. The flexibility of the LinuxONE also enabled the bus company to apply analytics to the solution to gain better insight on customers and their buying patterns.
Meanwhile, back in the health care field, IBM recently announced a partnership with Hangzhou CognitiveCare, a startup aimed at using cognitive computing to fight against cancer in China, to bring IBM’s Watson for Oncology solution to 21 hospitals across China. Watson for Oncology is a cognitive computing solution primarily for physicians to help them provide personalized, evidence-based cancer treatment options.
IBM’s efforts in China don’t come as a huge surprise to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, who notes that health care has long been a focus area for the Watson platform, for both technological and marketplace reasons. IBM’s first major use case for Watson was in health care. And the company launched its Watson Health unit last year. The partnership with Hangzhou CognitiveCare is Watson Health’s first in China.
IBM Delves Into Chinese Health Care Market
“All this data can be overwhelming for providers and patients alike, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform the ways in which we manage our health,” said John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president of solutions portfolio and research, at the launch of the Watson Health unit. “We need better ways to tap into and analyze all of this information in real time to benefit patients and to improve wellness globally. Only IBM has the advanced cognitive capabilities of Watson and can pull together the vast ecosystem of partners, practitioners and researchers needed to drive change, as well as to provide the open, secure and scalable platform needed to make it all possible.”
The initial version of Watson for Oncology available in China will be in English only. However, Hangzhou CognitiveCare will provide translation assistance for various Chinese dialects.
“Watson’s ability to parse huge volumes of information and to be queried by and provide results to a variety of users makes it a good fit for complex healthcare organizations,” King said. “Leveraging the LinuxONE mainframe as a cloud-based platform for large-scale healthcare management is also sensible when you consider the platform’s inherent security and transactional capabilities.”
Cancer is on the rise in China, and is the leading cause of death among China’s population of 1.4 billion, IBM said. In 2015 alone there were 4.3 million new cancer cases and more than 2.8 million cancer deaths in China, according to the company.
Watson for Oncology is based on a variety of sources, including oncology expertise from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It also draws from more than 300 medical journals, 200 textbooks and nearly 15 million pages of text that have all been fed into the Watson platform.
“Watson has the power to transform how doctors battle cancer in China and around the world, providing physicians with insights regarding treatment options that help them customize therapeutic recommendations specific to each individual, based on a patient’s specific needs,” said Zhen Tu, CEO of Hangzhou Cognitive Care, in a statement.
“Health care in China is transforming at a rapid pace but the world’s most populous country faces numerous challenges as it struggles to cope with a precipitous rise in cancer and other diseases,” noted Nancy Fabozzi, principal analyst of Transformational Health at Frost & Sullivan.
King said he believes IBM also may be attracted by management and decision-making processes of the Chinese government.
“A few years back, China’s government decided to systematically implement EHR [electronic health records] for its entire population,” King said. “Compare that to the U.S., where EHR and other digital health care initiatives are rolled out according to the whims of medical insurance providers, HMOs, private and public hospitals, doctors, state legislatures and the federal government. The result is akin to a clown car that, while continuing to move forward, often appears headed toward certain doom. In comparison, China’s approach must seem positively restful.”