IBM Launches Watson Health Cloud, New Health Unit

IBM introduced Watson Health Cloud and IBM Watson Health, a Watson-based cloud environment and new business unit focused on the healthcare industry.

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IBM announced the launch of its new Watson Health Cloud to provide a secure and open platform for physicians, researchers, insurers and companies focused on health and wellness solutions.

IBM has been promoting its Watson cognitive computing system to advance the quality and effectiveness of personal health care. Big Blue's new HIPAA-compliant (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Watson Health Cloud will enable secure access to individualized insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people's health.

"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. "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."

To further extend Watson in the health care arena, IBM is entering new partnerships with leading companies, including Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, to help optimize consumer and medical devices for data collection, analysis and feedback. IBM also said it is acquiring Explorys and Phytel to advance its health care analytics capabilities. And the company is establishing a dedicated business unit, IBM Watson Health, which will be headquartered in the Boston area.

IBM says the future of health is all about the individual. With the increasing prevalence of personal fitness trackers, connected medical devices, implantables and other sensors that collect real-time information, the average person is likely to generate more than 1 million gigabytes of health-related data in their lifetime—the equivalent of more than 300 million books, IBM said.

However, it is growing more difficult to connect these dynamic and constantly growing pools of information with more traditional sources such as doctor-created medical records, clinical research and individual genomes—data sets that are highly fragmented and not easily shared. A scalable and secure global information platform is required to pull out individualized insights to help people and providers make timely, evidence-based decisions about health-related issues.

IBM is collaborating with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to create new health-based offerings that use information collected from personal health, medical and fitness devices. The results will be better insights, real-time feedback and recommendations to improve everything from personal health and wellness to acute and chronic care. These relationships are non-exclusive, and IBM anticipates many more companies will use the Watson Health Cloud platform.

IBM and Apple will expand their existing enterprise mobility partnership to apply cloud services and analytics to HealthKit and ResearchKit, key features of the new Apple Watch and iOS. IBM will provide a secure research capability on the Watson Health Cloud platform, de-identifying personal data to allow researchers to easily store, aggregate and model information collected from iOS users who opt-in to contribute personal data to medical research.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson will collaborate with IBM to create intelligent coaching systems centered on preoperative and postoperative patient care, including joint replacement and spinal surgery. Solutions will be mobile-based, accessing the Watson Health Cloud and using IBM Watson's cognitive capabilities. Johnson & Johnson will also look to launch new health apps targeting chronic conditions, which currently cost consumers as much as 80 percent of the $7 trillion global health care spend.

In addition, Medtronic will use the Watson Health Cloud insights platform to collaborate with IBM around delivery of new highly personalized care management solutions for people with diabetes. The system will receive and analyze patient information and data from various devices, including insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, and use this information to provide dynamic, personalized diabetes management strategies to patients and their providers.