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IBM unveils Watson Health unit, to partner with Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, plans acquisitions

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
There may be a new "Dr. Watson" in town thanks to IBM's bold new move into the big-data health game.

IBM has announced it is setting up a Watson Health Cloud that will provide a secure and open platform for physicians, researchers, insurers and companies focused on health and wellness solutions.

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Extending the company's exclusive Watson cognitive computing platform, Big Blue also announced that it 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.

- Acquiring Explorys and Phytel to advance its health care analytics capabilities.

- Establishing a dedicated business unit – IBM Watson Health, to be headquartered in the Boston, MA, area.

The goal is to pull insights from the masses of data now challenging health care providers. "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, 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."

IBM and Apple will expand their partnership with IBM Watson Health Cloud to provide a secure cloud platform and analytics for Apple's HealthKit and ResearchKit.

Johnson & Johnson will collaborate with IBM to create intelligent coaching systems centered on preoperative and postoperative patient care, and look to launch new health apps targeting chronic conditions.

Medtronic will collaborate with IBM around delivery of new highly-personalized care management solutions for people with diabetes.

One of the planned acquisitions is Phytel, which develops and sells cloud-based services that help health care providers and care teams work better together, critical to meeting new health care quality requirements and reimbursement models. Because the software lives in the cloud, there are minimal technology issues associated with its use.

"IBM is continuing a significant investment in supporting the needs of our health care clients by bringing together powerful cognitive computing with new insights into all the factors that influence a person's health," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson.
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