Healthcare Data Analytics

What Watson Health’s Latest Acquisition Means for Population Health

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Anil Jain, MD, is a Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at IBM Watson Health

Just about a year ago, IBM announced a new division – Watson Health, designed to serve as a catalyst to help clinicians improve and save lives of people around the world, and help lower health costs through the power of cognitive insights. The recent news that Watson Health has acquired Truven Health Analytics, a leading provider of cloud-based healthcare data, demonstrates a continued commitment to that vision.

In addition to a wealth of expertise and diverse client relationships, Truven Health Analytics brings with it extensive cloud-based data sets spanning years of aggregated cost, claims, quality and outcomes information. Once this data is fully integrated post-acquisition, Watson Health will house one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections of health-related data, representing an aggregate of approximately 300 million patient lives. “With this acquisition, IBM will be one of the world’s leading health data, analytics and insights companies, and the only one that can deliver the unique cognitive capabilities of the Watson platform,” said Deborah DiSanzo, general manager for IBM Watson Health.

What is the goal of amassing all this data? Uncovering the important patterns in the data will help inform clinicians about appropriate pathways that provide optimal care and cost outcomes. Watson is equipped to analyze and find trends in data from a wide variety of sources. By pairing cognitive computing with vast amounts of data, new patterns can be identified. Through the Watson Health Cloud, healthcare organizations will be able to take previously disparate data sets, including unstructured data, and combine them to create unique insights that help inform a broad range of health decisions in a timely manner.

The underlying goal is to support better care of a specific patient as well as large populations managed through value-based care initiatives. Dr. Kyu Rhee, chief health officer at IBM Watson Health said, “You ultimately want the improved health of a population. Part of the challenge has been that sometimes the data that we’ve used to identify the opportunities to improve health have only been part of the picture, part of the puzzle. What we’re doing at Watson is putting these elements together.”

Although critically important, data is just one aspect of this newest member of the Watson Health. Truven will also bring more than 8,500 clients, including U.S. federal and state government agencies, health plans, hospitals, clinicians and life sciences companies to the IBM Watson Health portfolio. These clients represent a key stakeholder in the transformation of health and serve as partners for existing Explorys and Phytel clients as they form relationships within the ecosystem. In addition, the informatics capabilities of Truven Health Analytics has led to the Medical Episode Grouper (MEG), an important tool in understanding episodes in addressing population health. Moreover, the MarketScan data sets are invaluable in driving benchmarking around costs.

Talent is another key factor. As part of the acquisition, IBM will gain from Truven’s employees, greatly expanding the number of clinicians, epidemiologists, statisticians, healthcare administrators, policy experts and healthcare consultants within Watson Health. This move will increase Watson Health’s global presence. DiSanzo said “Truven’s impressive team, extensive client roster, and expansive data sets complement Watson Health’s broad-based team, capabilities and offerings. Together, we’re well positioned to scale globally and to build first-in-class offerings designed to help our clients apply cognitive insights in a value-based care environment.”

The acquisition of Truven Health Analytics provides an exciting glimpse of what is on the horizon for Watson Health. Vast amounts of data, paired with one-of-a kind cognitive capabilities and top talent creates an environment poised to dramatically improve the way health care is delivered.

Vice President and Chief Health Informatics Officer, IBM Watson Health

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