Within an average person's lifetime, he or she will generate more than one million gigabytes of health-related data, doubling the amount of medical data in existence every 2 to 5 years.
That's a nearly intractable amount of data, but IBM is turning loose its Watson supercomputer to help remedy the situation.
On Thursday, IBM Watson Healthannounced the addition of two new solutions for patients, providers, and others in the healthcare community to take advantage of all that data—and do it in a secure fashion.
Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance
The first of these additions is IBM Watson Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance. This service is aimed at biomedical companies with the idea of making the process of supporting medical innovations, like getting new drugs to market faster and at a lower cost. This happens partly by helping companies fast-track applications and infrastructures that are GxP (an abbreviation for good-x-practice that deals with pharmaceutical industry guidelines regarding the process of drugs going from development to production) compliant. Hosting, accessing, and sharing regulated data require adherence to stiff requirements.
"This announcement is significant because CIOs have been reluctant to push wider GxP IT strategies beyond the firewall without the support of a key mega-vendor like IBM," said Gartner analyst Michael Shanler.
As far as the cloud aspect goes, Sean Hogan, IBM Healthcare vice president, gave the example of how this Health Cloud could make an impact on medical trials for new drugs. Eighty percent of drugs get abandoned or delayed because of the inability to effectively match individuals who may qualify to participate in a new drug trial based on inclusion/exclusion criteria. The challenge is not only that but then tracking how the drug is affecting them and managing other influencing factors like other medications they might be taking. Having the ability to quickly and effectively match trials and potential participants could change the process.
The other addition is IBM Watson Care Manager. Care Manager integrates Watson Health, Apple ResearchKit, and Apple HealthKit, with the idea that medical professionals can use all that information to create personalized patient engagement programs.
Hogan talked about the use of Care Manager in cases of chronic illness, for example, saying that a lot of money is spent on inefficiencies in treating people with chronic conditions, as they have to rely on hospital-based care. But, as people are living longer, and living with these conditions, they don't want to be living in a hospital.
"What we're doing with this Care Manager and other capabilities is helping understand people's conditions and needs so we can understand the needs of a total populations and target those who are at greater risk and then provide programs, and insights and understanding about their condition and how they're responding so that we can help keep them healthy and out of the hospital," he said.
The company also announced partnerships with Boston Children's Hospital, Columbia University, ICON, Sage Bionetworks, and Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Their work with Boston Children's Hospital deals with a capability called the Open Pediatrics Platform. The basic idea is getting knowledge and insight from Boston Children's to a care provider during time like an emergency, for example, where perhaps a family is traveling and are all of a sudden faced with the urgent need for care.
IBM also announced the establishment of a headquarters for Watson Health, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as named its general manager of IBM Watson Health, Deborah DiSanzo, who was most recently CEO of Philips Health.
Overall, IBM is hoping to be able to throw its weight behind some of the large data and security challenges in healthcare.
Shanler said this first round will be something of a learning experience for IBM as it digs deeper into the space and builds its credibility.
"Both IBM and their customers will need to focus energy on the problem it wants to solve, not just the technology to enable it," he said.
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Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.