B. Dusty Majumdar

Computing Power – IBM Watson solving health care challenges

February 10, 2017
At the HIMSS annual conference this year, organizations and health leaders from across the globe will once again gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing our industry. The timing for these conversations could not be better, as 2017 will be a year of profound change – and disruption. This year, the health care industry will face increased regulatory, societal and economic pressures. Clinicians will be challenged to deliver evidence-backed care. Organizations will prepare for a shift to value-based payment models. Researchers will continue their pursuits of scientific breakthroughs.

Many believe that the key to navigating this changing environment is the ability to tap into the potential of “big data” from traditional sources, such as laboratory reports, clinical notes and genomic information, to exogenous data captured beyond the care setting, including socioeconomic details, personal biometric outputs voluntarily provided by patients and environmental factors.

However, in an industry riddled with complexity and uncertainty, professionals still face significant headwinds on their path to progress. It can sometimes seem that the solution is just beyond their reach, hidden under what’s not relevant or behind a door they cannot open. Experts advise that advances in technology, such as sophisticated analytics, cloud solutions and cognitive computing technology are key to helping health leaders:

• Pursue better results. Move professionals toward evidence-based approaches by enabling them to process and understand more data and allowing them to expand, optimize and potentially personalize care options.

• Scale intelligent care management. Enable leaders to tap into technology to help their teams manage care plans, services and patient engagement across a broader spectrum of health care settings.

• Establish connections. Help professionals better determine appropriate health care services, unlocking previously hidden insights and breaking down information silos.
• Accelerate discovery. Support life sciences companies in their drug development pursuits by helping to improve collaboration among teams, identify new targets for research or arm researchers with data designed to help their teams determine if a medicine can be used in other diseases.

• Achieve heightened confidence. Arm physicians with insights that support and enhance decision making in clinical settings.

• Identify optimal treatment pathways. Enhance efforts for personalized and precision medicine by allowing physicians to compare their patients’ clinical characteristics with millions of other patients worldwide. Together, with IBM Watson Health, health care pioneers are working to tackle today’s health challenges in the areas of:

• Oncology and genomics: To help transform cancer care for patients and providers. From research to treatment, cognitive computing can help physicians transform health care for the more than 1.6 million Americans who develop cancer annually and the nearly 14 million currently fighting it by helping to redefine how clinical trials are conducted, treatments are considered and care is personalized.

• Life sciences: To help advance more rapid and efficient drug discovery. With the cost of developing a single drug now exceeding $2.6 billion, cognitive systems can help increase collaboration among teams, help identify new targets for research or provide data to assist researchers in determining if a medicine can be used in other diseases.

• Government: To improve the value of health and human services, lower costs and have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. To achieve better and more sustainable results, Watson Health enables health and human services professionals to access and use data related to these external factors. This can help transform current systems of care by providing a more holistic view of their clients’ health and well-being.

• Value-based care: To help manage at-risk populations, connect with consumers and improve patient engagement. Cognitive computing may help support emerging value-based care models by collecting information at each step of the patient life cycle, then providing analytics to help improve decision making and execution. The magnitude of change unfolding in health care is profound, and that is unlikely to change in the short term. In the future, Watson Health will aim to continue to support people and professionals in their efforts. For example:

• Imaging: To expand the role of medical imaging for better care. In this area, IBM Watson Health’s goal is for cognitive imaging platforms to potentially help physicians by providing them with insights so they can determine which potential imaging procedures may be most appropriate.

• Consumers: To help empower individuals to lead healthier lives. Watson Health believes that, one day, cognitive computing may provide individuals with more feedback on their own health habits, and could encourage them to change personal behaviors as a way to maintain or improve health. Through technology that supports health experts, they can work to achieve better outcomes.

About the author: B. Dusty Majumdar is the chief marketing officer for IBM Watson Health.