Making the Promise of Smarter Health a Reality

Improving health is the challenge of our era. No other facet of human existence has been so rich with science, technology and investment, yet so strained by complexity, convention and misinformation.

It is only in the world of health that we can read about the second case of an apparent HIV cure[1] right alongside a headline about measles cases hitting a 25-year record high[2]. Only in the world of health do we have a paradox in which more data than ever is flowing through physicians’ offices and public health departments, but the true value of that data has gone untapped because it is unstructured and siloed in systems that don’t talk to one another. Only when it comes to health do we as consumers and patients have more service options than ever, yet very little visibility into what those services cost due to a misalignment of incentives between various stakeholders.

These are significant challenges, but there has never been a better time to tackle them.

Governments and providers around the world are creating policies and initiatives to improve everything from cancer care and chronic disease management to isolation and loneliness in aging populations. Health plans and employers are reshaping the way the world pays for healthcare quality and value. There is growing awareness about the social determinants of our health and how to use data-driven insights to address health holistically.

IBM has been at the forefront of applying innovative technology to these types of large-scale public health issues for over a century, earning the trust of our clients and partners along the way. In fact, the first use of a punched card for data processing was in 1886 at Baltimore’s Department of Health, using a tabulating system developed by IBM forefather Herman Hollerith. In the 1960s, IBM developed and implemented an early electronic medical record with Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio. In 2011, with the promise of Watson technology, we decided to move even further into health, working with leading institutions like Memorial Sloan Kettering and Mayo Clinic to leverage data and expertise to help combat some of our biggest health challenges.

In 2015, we formed the Watson Health business unit, bringing unmatched talent and expertise to the healthcare industry. Watson Health delivered unprecedented insights – trusted, secure and actionable information we could also use to train Watson in value-based payment models, radiology, oncology and clinical trials. Since then, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring solutions to market that help hospitals and health organizations address their biggest challenges.

And we have had much success in a short period of time. Today, our solutions are being used by thousands of clients around the world to ensure safety, improve effectiveness, increase efficiency, drive health equity, reduce waste and improve access to care. One of our patient safety solutions delivers evidence-based clinical decision support to healthcare providers in over 4,500 hospitals in more than 80 countries. In the past year, one of our evidence-based clinical decision support tools closed gaps in care for nearly 2.5 million patients. Our fraud, waste and abuse algorithms are at work daily spotting anomalies in health claims and helping government health and human services agencies recover hundreds of millions of dollars in over-payments. Early work with our oncology and genomics technologies has resulted in a near doubling of enrollment in clinical trials, improved patient engagement and clinical decision-making in cancer treatments, and raised adherence to evidence-based best practices.

We take this critical role we are playing in improving population health and helping healthcare providers deal with the burdens they face very seriously. To support all of this, we have more than 60 peer-reviewed studies, posters and abstracts that cover our Watson Health AI offerings alone. Since 2017, more than 900 pieces of scientific evidence have demonstrated the science of Watson Health in the areas of research, real world evidence and AI.

But this is still just the beginning.

We knew from the start this journey would not be easy. Even when you are entrusted to work with the smartest, most significant and innovative hospitals, governments, health plans, employers and life sciences companies in the world, not every idea you explore will succeed. But what does come out of those efforts is invaluable health knowledge that benefits the whole industry, and better informs the next big idea.

We leverage that knowledge each day. We constantly evaluate our offerings to ensure we are bringing forward the most valuable options for our clients and the people they serve, and we are investing in new capabilities that will enable our clients to improve health, reduce costs, and transform the larger health system.

We are learning, but, our mission remains unchanged. It is still early in the journey to bring AI into health, but IBM will remain steadfast, at the forefront of this game-changing technology, leading the way to improve lives and give hope using the power of data, analytics, AI and hybrid cloud to create the ultimate platform for interoperability and insights, anytime, from any data.

[1] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanhiv/article/PIIS2352-3018(19)30086-4/fulltext

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/04/29/us-officials-say-measles-cases-hit-year-record/?utm_term=.ab12e36dbebe