Dr. Watson Will See You Now: IBM, CVS Team on Patient Care
People suffering from chronic diseases are about to get some computer-assisted help, thanks to a new partnership between IBM and CVS Health. The companies announced a new collaboration today that will enable the pharmacy giant to use IBM’s predictive analytics and its Watson cognitive computing platform to improve care management services for chronically ill patients.
The new program will allow healthcare professionals to leverage IBM’s computing capabilities to provide more advanced services for a number of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, according to the companies. Those diseases combine to represent the leading causes of death in the U.S. and almost $2.9 trillion in annual healthcare spending.
Big Data Meets the Pharmacy
IBM’s Watson is a commercially available cognitive computing platform delivered through the cloud. It primarily analyzes large volumes of data, allowing clients such as app developers to build better programs.
The Watson platform is able to interact in natural language, read and understand large amounts of information, and learn new concepts through experience. Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities will enable healthcare practitioners to use data from a wide variety of healthcare data sources, including medical health records, pharmacy and medical claims information, environmental factors, and fitness devices.
The partnership essentially gives CVS access to big data computing capabilities, allowing the company to gain a much more complete picture of a patient’s health profile. For the moment, the program is being optimized for patients with chronic diseases, although the underlying idea could eventually be applied to an even larger pool of patients.
The companies said that the program will be made available to insurers and other entities serving the employer and health plan market. Initially, the program will focus on three core goals: helping to identify which individuals are at risk for declining health; encouraging patients to adopt healthier behaviors; and recommending primary care and outpatient providers that are cost effective.
Treating Health Problems Before They Start
By identifying at-risk individuals, Watson can help develop proactive, customized programs to engage patients before their conditions become more acute. That could potentially save the healthcare system billions of dollars by addressing health issues before they even begin. Better access to patient data will also allow CVS to help patients adhere to their prescription and lifestyle regimens.
The partnership between IBM and CVS will be useful for a variety of healthcare providers, including pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and connected healthcare providers, while also helping CVS’ network of pharmacies improve patient health and lowering costs, said Troyen Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer for CVS Health.
“The capabilities of the IBM Watson Health Cloud, when coupled with CVS Health’s insights into medication utilization and patient behavior, could prove transformative for the industry,” said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson. The company has recently made a number of acquisitions in the medical data sector, including Phytel, Explorys, and Curam.
Image credit: Watson product shot with logo from IBM.