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IBM Watson Health Expands Imaging, Population Health Efforts

February 20, 2017
by David Raths
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Watson Clinical Imaging Review launches with aortic stenosis application
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IBM’s Watson Health kicked off HIMSS17 in Orlando on Monday with a slew of announcements, including a clinical imaging review platform and partnerships with several large provider organizations on population health and value-based health initiatives.

IBM is unveiling Watson Clinical Imaging Review, which it says reviews medical data including images to help providers identify the most critical cases that require attention. The first application for the offering is cardiovascular disease, starting with a common condition called aortic stenosis (AS). AS, which affects 1.5 million Americans, occurs when the aortic valve in the heart is narrowed, impeding blood flow to the rest of the body and causing shortness of breath, tiredness, and chest pain.

IBM noted that a pilot study found that Watson Clinical Imaging Review was able to help hospital personnel identify potential AS patients who had not been previously flagged for follow up cardiovascular care. The company plans to supplement the release of this offering with nine additional cardiovascular conditions, such as myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), valve disorders, cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), and deep vein thrombosis. The Watson Health medical imaging collaborative has added eight new members, bringing the total number to 24 worldwide. Members of the collaborative helped IBM develop and validate Watson Clinical Imaging Review.

Here are other some of the other Watson-related announcements made at HIMSS:

• IBM announced that it would work with the Central New York Care Collaborative to create the nation’s first cognitive population health platform. Their goal is to connect more than 2,000 care providers across six counties, improve health for citizens across the region, and reduce costs in New York’s Medicaid system by decreasing the amount of avoidable hospital stays by 25 percent over five years. The solution will integrate IBM Watson Care Manager with broader Watson Health offerings and run on the Watson Health Cloud.

• Massachusetts-based Atrius Health has entered into a collaboration with IBM Watson Health to conduct research into a cloud-based service designed to improve the physician-patient experience. By providing a holistic view of the multiple influences on an individual's health, including social determinants, Watson Cognitive Insights could be designed to support shared decision making between physicians and patients.

• IBM introduced expanded capabilities for the Watson Platform for Health Cloud and a specialized Watson Health Consulting Services unit dedicated to helping clients and partners across the healthcare ecosystem capture the business opportunity of cognitive computing in healthcare.  The company is expanding Watson Platform for Health's capabilities with enhancements to its HIPAA-enabled data platform and a new GxP edition.

• Watson Platform for Health: A data platform designed specifically for health and life sciences development to help ease data ingestion, curation, and normalization. New enhancements include IBM Mobile Foundation support, to ease the process of building HIPAA-enabled mobile applications that work with Watson Health.     

• Watson Platform for Health GxP: A data platform fully managed under the Watson Health Quality Management System to help organizations reduce the risks, costs and time associated with compliance with FDA and global regulations.

• IBM Watson Annotator for Clinical Data: A cognitive service that allows companies to unlock critical information in unstructured data – such as physician notes, discharge summaries, and pathology reports – using natural language processing to deliver domain specific insights on information such as symptoms, disease, allergies, and medication to help drive insights for care.

But it wasn’t all good news for IBM. On the eve of the HIMSS meeting, Forbes published an article about how the IBM Watson partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center had soured. In October 2013, IBM declared that MD Anderson was using the IBM Watson cognitive computing system for its mission to eradicate cancer. But Forbes’ Matthew Herper noted that the partnership between IBM and MD Anderson is falling apart: “The project is on hold, MD Anderson confirms, and has been since late last year. MD Anderson is actively requesting bids from other contractors who might replace IBM in future efforts. And a scathing report from auditors at the University of Texas says the project cost MD Anderson more than $62 million and yet did not meet its goals.”

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