Watson Health

Turning Data into Insights for Healthcare Providers

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Early in my career, when I was a physician in inner-city Baltimore, it was always a struggle to give each patient the time he or she deserved. Time, as we know in medicine, is precious. It is the part of our job that is the most important, the most human, and the most crucial for connecting with those in our care. And yet many of us in healthcare do not have enough of it as we juggle patients, and the flurry of the paper and electronic records that make up the immense volume of data we are expected to plow through each day.

Back in my days treating patients in Baltimore, I needed not just better data, but a better way of cutting through that deluge of information I had so that I could find what was most important for each patient. And I needed more time.

But what if more and better data, equated to more time with our patients?

It turns out it does. That is what is so exciting about AI, and its potential to enable physicians to improve the care they can give their patients by creating both a more complete view of the patient as well as medical evidence to support treatment decisions. Even some of the most basic information, an accurate patient medical history, or the newest guidelines on treating chronic disease and comorbidities, are not always easily available. So creating a system to accurately and quickly put that kind of information, and more, into the hands of those charged with the duty of delivering care has great potential to improve health outcomes.

For more than a century now IBM has led in the innovation of technology that has helped to transform our society. Whether it was the punch card tabulating machines at the dawn of the last century, or massive mainframe computers after the Second World War, or early programming languages more than a generation ago, IBM has been at the forefront in creating tools to tap the awesome power of data to benefit us all.

That is what we are doing at Watson Health — we are pioneering a new era in medicine that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to leverage insights from data that will change healthcare. AI is allowing physicians and hospitals to incorporate more data, smarter data and integrate it efficiently and effectively into everyday care.

This isn’t a machine providing care. It is AI giving doctors more time to administer to their patients by cutting through the reams of data to find the most important and salient facts for care. It puts into physicians’ hands insights on how best to treat those patients, with the goal of creating better outcomes and more time for the doctor-patient relationship. High tech can actually lead to high touch.

And imagine the opportunity to improve performance, if care providers and hospitals were armed with this knowledge in their care for each and every patient.

Today, we released a new report, the Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals Study, that includes encouraging news about the nation’s top medical facilities. Each of these hospitals has their own unique story to tell, but they all share the same foundation for their success — a laser focus on evidence-based quality across the continuum of care. In fact, if all Medicare patients received the same level of care that patients received at these facilities, more than 100,000 lives could be saved each year. And all those lives could be saved while spending $4.4 billion less on inpatient costs.

IBM Watson Health has already shown the power of using AI and data analytics for innovations in oncology, diabetes, life sciences, government and value-based care to name a few. Last year alone, we published more than 300 papers on insights gleaned from this data, but the core of what we do — what IBM has always done — is making the best and most efficient use of the data we have so that you can make the best decisions for the care of your patients.

I know that these kinds of data insights would have helped me as young a physician at a hospital in an underserved community in Baltimore so long ago, where I had incomplete information about those in my care.

For me, the notion that we at IBM Watson Health will be putting this information — and the powerful insights that come with it — into the hands of this generation of doctors is inspiring. What drives us is knowing that AI is the next innovation for IBM as we transform healthcare, but there is still much to do.

Later today I will participate in a discussion with other physicians, academics, health system executives, and journalists to focus in, not just on the potential of AI in healthcare, but some of the obstacles in integrating data and artificial intelligence into health care decision making. This next wave of innovation will not be easy, as we navigate issues like privacy, security and data integration, but the benefits are so monumental that we must find the right path through.

Former Vice President, IBM Watson Health, and Chief Health Officer

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