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IBM Watson Health, Siemens Healthineers Partner on Population Health Management

October 11, 2016
by Heather Landi
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IBM Watson Health announced today a five year, global strategic partnership with Siemens Healthineers to offer population health management solutions.

Siemens Healthineers and IBM Watson Health said the partnership is designed to help healthcare professionals navigate unprecedented changes propelled by a growing volume and diversity of health data, an aging global population, increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, changes in healthcare payment models, and the digitization and consumerization of healthcare.

As part of the partnership, Siemens Healthineers will offer PHM solutions and services from IBM Watson Health. Siemens Healthineers will also provide consulting services to support providers in their transition to value-based care. The deal also marks Siemens entry into population health management. Siemens Healthcare changed its name to Siemens Healthineers this past May.

Koustav Chatterjee, Frost & Sullivan transformational health industry analyst, said in a statement, “The adoption of PHM solutions that demonstrate meaningful use of IT applications is expected to accelerate rapidly. Patient care is moving into a broader but coordinated environment where routine, manual tasks are automated by PHM solutions that unify siloed systems, stratify comorbidities, empower patients through engagement, and benchmark outcomes at network, practice, and patient level.”

Chatterjee added, “I expect the shift from volume to value-based healthcare delivery will accelerate adoption of PHM technology and service solutions helping providers effectively manage chronic conditions and prevent unnecessary system utilization.

IBM Watson and Siemens will collaborate to develop and deploy new population health management offerings by leveraging each company’s expertise and assets, including those added to the Watson Health portfolio from acquisitions such as Phytel and Explorys. In 2015, IBM acquired population health company Phytel and Cleveland Clinic spinoff Explorys, a cloud-based data analytics company, as components of the newly formed Watson Health business unit.

Anil Jain, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer for Explorys, says IBM Watson Health’s strategic partnership with Siemens will help to accelerate population health management solutions to the health IT market. “This partnership brings together IBM Watson’s population health solution platform, which it has put together over the past 18 months through a $4 billion investment in the acquisitions of Explorys, Phytel, and Truven Health Analytics, with Watson cognitive AI along with Siemens expertise and the relationships it has with hospitals and health systems in order to accelerate those solutions and bring them to market faster,” Jain says.

Further, Jain says the partnership is designed to address many of the key challenges that hospital and health system leaders are facing with population health management initiatives.

“One [challenge that health systems] see is a lot of disparate information systems within their community and hospital systems, different vendors and different types of data coming from different places,” he says. Therefore, health system leaders need population health management solutions that bring all those data silos together under a single platform.

“Another challenge that healthcare systems see is ensuring that their population health partner is a robust, strong partner for them as they navigate and mature through the population health management journey,” Jain says. “Every health system is at a different stage; every health system has a slightly different way of looking at their environment and their healthcare ecosystem and they need a partner is going to be strong, and be there as their strategic partner, as their analytics partner, as their implementation partner.”

The basic foundation of population health is bringing together clinical electronic health record (EHR) data, administrative claims data and social determinants of health data, “to get a full longitudinal picture of the patient,” Jain says.  The next layer to population health is the analytics insights that enable health systems to risk stratify patients in need of healthcare services. The third layer is integrating those insights into the clinical and care managers’ workflow “so there is awareness of which part of the population is in need of which particular service,” Jain says. With the combination of the assets from Explorys, Phytel and Truven and Watson Health’s cognitive computing platform, the company’s population health management solutions address those three areas, Jain says.

For example, Siemens Healthineers will now access to IBM Watson Care Manager, a cognitive solution from IBM designed to help providers and patients to work together to support individual health. IBM Watson Care Manager integrates disparate types of clinical and individual data and applies cognitive analysis to draw out insights for nurses and other care managers so they can closely monitor and counsel individuals with chronic conditions, according to executives.

In turn, IBM gains a partner with an installed base of hospital customers and clinical impact. According to a joint press release from both companies, more than 70 percent of critical clinical decisions are influenced by Siemens instruments and their lab diagnostic tools process more than 200,000 patients every hour.

“When we work with Siemens, they bring together a deep expertise on how workflows operate within the health systems and hospitals, especially around imaging and diagnostic lab,” Jain says. “Our goal is to bring together their expertise and some of the Watson health expertise, and see whether there are opportunities to change the way that imaging and laboratory medicine and advanced diagnostics may be used in population health, as one example.”

He continues, “Other examples would include, ‘How do we really use the expertise that Siemens has and the tools that Watson Health has amassed to really understand the most optimal workflow?’ Some of that may involve cognitive and some of that may involve training providers on population health workflows and some of that may simply be looking at the different ways that doctors and patients and care managers and care coordinators interact and finding the right models that work and deploying that forward. There is a huge opportunity for us to collaborate and time will tell in terms of where we focus.”

“In the U.S. there is a huge opportunity to start bringing together population health management to moving the needle. There’s been a lot of population health management work done in the U.S., and some solutions and some efforts by healthcare systems have gone well and some have not gone so well. We know in the U.S. alone, by 2020, anywhere up to 80 percent of all healthcare transactions will be value-based, meaning that providers and hospitals will be reimbursed based on the quality and value of the care they deliver, not just the volume of care they deliver. It’s a critical piece. Our goal is to accelerate that population health activity,” Jains says.

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