Cognitive Computing

Collaborating for Change: Cognitive Computing Meets Diabetes

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As a primary care physician, I’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact that chronic conditions such as diabetes can have on individuals and the healthcare industry as a whole. Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. today are living with diabetes, where an additional 86 million have prediabetes, whether they are aware of it or not

That’s roughly one out of every 11 people in the country who are touched by the disease. And with a hefty price tag of $245 billion dollars per year spent on diabetes care, management of this disease is in desperate need of a reinvention.

American Diabetes Association SVP of medical technology Jane Chiang, MD, left and IBM Watson Health chief health officer Kyu Rhee, MD met Sunday, June 12, 2016 at the American Diabetes Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, LA, where the two organizations announced they are teaming up to reimagine how diabetes is managed. The collaboration will bring together the cognitive computing power of Watson and the Association’s vast repository of clinical and research data. In the first phase of the collaboration, the organizations will challenge the developer community to create cognitive diabetes apps. (A.J. Sisco/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

American Diabetes Association SVP of medical technology Jane Chiang, MD, left and IBM Watson Health chief health officer Kyu Rhee, MD met Sunday, June 12, 2016 at the American Diabetes Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, LA, where the two organizations announced they are teaming up to reimagine how diabetes is managed. The collaboration will bring together the cognitive computing power of Watson and the Association’s vast repository of clinical and research data. In the first phase of the collaboration, the organizations will challenge the developer community to create cognitive diabetes apps. (A.J. Sisco/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

I’ve worked for nearly 15 years on the front-lines of care delivery in some capacity, primarily with underserved populations, and know that providers are often forced to operate within the confines of significant limitations: limited time with patients, limited information, and limited insights. Each day, clinicians may often have just a few minutes to review a patient’s medical record before an equally short appointment with the patient. And in any case, diabetes is a disease that is primarily managed by the person who suffers from it, working to control blood sugar and insulin levels day in and day out.

But, what if clinicians, researchers and people with diabetes had access to the information, tools and resources that would help improve both treatment and management of the disease? Today, as part of a new collaboration with the American Diabetes Association, we’re challenging the status quo and applying the power of big data and cognitive computing to push the limits of what’s possible.

By joining forces, IBM and the Association will work together to apply the cognitive computing power of Watson to the Association’s unmatched repository of 66 years of clinical and research data. It is the goal for Watson to ingest this data, along with aggregated information about diabetes self-management, support groups, health/wellness activities and disease education. Watson will then be trained to understand diabetes data in order to identify potential risk factors, and create evidence-based insights for a range of health decisions.

This ability to access, integrate and analyze information beyond what is in a medical record is hugely important for providers striving to deliver the highest quality care, especially when it comes to caring for people with diabetes. The better the data, the better the insights, and for a largely self-managed disease like diabetes, these insights could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Whether from literature and research, tracking data from wearables and mobile devices, or self-reported details on food intake and activity levels, this information – when analyzed together – has the potential to improve diabetes management. Specifically, through Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities on these aggregated data sets, it actually becomes possible to achieve what I call “The Four Ps to Patient-Centric Care.”

When robust and previously siloed data sets are interconnected and analyzed together, providers can be predictive in their care. Patterns and insights that might have otherwise gone undetected are flagged and providers can act preemptively instead of after an issue arises. These predictive insights can then be used to personalize a treatment plan in order to prevent a poor outcome. This personalized approach ultimately promotes better health and wellness, a critical concept for people with diabetes whose behaviors and actions are directly linked to the progression of the disease.

One focus of our collaboration with the Association is to encourage the development of Watson-powered applications throughout the industry. At the Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions, our organizations introduced a developer challenge, calling on the developer community to create cognitive innovations that have the potential to transform how diabetes is identified and managed. And we have great ambitions to create cognitive solutions that will support researchers, care providers, and people with diabetes.

With great knowledge comes great power. And by combining Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities with the Associations depth and breadth of resources, we have the power to change the diabetes care landscape — not only for people living with the disease, but for clinicians and researchers who are striving to improve outcomes for this population as well. We’re excited to get started.


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diabetes is a disease that is primarily managed by the person who suffers from it, working to control blood sugar and insulin levels day in and day out.

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