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IBM aims Watson's cognitive computer power at CVS customers

Lucas Mearian | July 31, 2015
IBM's Watson will be working for drugstore chain CVS in a partnership that has the supercomputer pointing its cognitive computing power at customers with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity offering care providers insights into their patients' behaviors.

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Leanne LeBlanc, IBM Watson project manager, views analytics of healthcare data at Watson headquarters. Credit: IBM

IBM's Watson will be working for drugstore chain CVS in a partnership that has the supercomputer pointing its cognitive computing power at customers with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity offering care providers insights into their patients' behaviors.

In a partnership announced today, IBM's Watson supercomputer will be used to ingest data from CVS patient clinical records, claims data and fitness devices and then combine that with the latest medical research to provide pharmacies, nurses and allied physicians with best practices for treating patients who suffer from chronic illnesses.

By detecting potential issues early, the hope is that Watson will be able to help healthcare providers treat potential patients at risk of illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure before they become critical.

"The need to do so is urgent. The U.S. spends an estimated $2.9 trillion on healthcare, of which 86 percent goes to address chronic diseases," IBM stated. "Yet the U.S. currently ranks 37th in health outcomes globally according to the World Health Organization."

CVS has 7,600 retail drugstores, nearly 1,000 walk-in medical clinics, and pharmacy benefits management programs that involve 70 million members of various medical plans.

The Watson supercomputer analyzes high volumes of data and processes information more like a human than a computer--by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence, and learning as it goes.

Additionally, IBM operates the Watson Health Cloud, a service that it says provides a secure and open platform for physicians, researchers, insurers and companies focused on health and wellness research. The HIPAA-compliant Watson Health Cloud will enable secure access to individualized patient insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people's health.

With the prevalence of personal fitness trackers, connected medical devices and sensors capable of collecting biometric information in real time, the average person is likely to generate more than 1 million GB of health-related data in their lifetime (the equivalent of more than 300 million books), according to IBM.

At the same time, it's difficult to connect growing pools of patient information with more traditional sources such as doctor-created medical records, clinical research and individual genomes - data sets that are fragmented and not easily shared.

The Watson Health Cloud makes patient data anonymous by stripping out personal identification fields in a database. It then combines the patient data with an aggregated view of clinical, research and social health data. IBM customers like CVS, as well as partners and medical researchers, can then use the data to find new connections with previously siloed healthcare data sets and spur the creation of  data-driven applications designed to advance health and wellness.

 

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