Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

IBM extends Watson Health capabilities and consulting services

Steve Rogerson
February 28, 2017
At last week’s Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Florida, IBM introduced expanded capabilities for the Watson Platform for Health Cloud and a specialised Watson Health consulting services unit dedicated to helping clients and partners across the healthcare ecosystem capture the business opportunity of cognitive computing in healthcare.
To date, the adoption of cloud in the healthcare industry has been a slow process due to concerns around security, regulatory and compliance. Cloud providers may offer the raw materials, but then users must assemble and validate materials themselves.
Global adoption for cloud services in healthcare are expected to grow from $3.73bn in 2015 to nearly $10bn by 2020, according to Markets & Markets. The promise of cloud and cognitive capabilities has become a leading discussion in almost every IT strategy meeting as a platform for innovation in the future of healthcare delivery.
"As our clients look to accelerate the digitisation of business processes, unlock new value from their health data and infuse new intelligence to transform their enterprise, they need a cloud platform that is built to specifically address the unique needs of the healthcare and life sciences industry," said Lori Steele, IBM global managing director of healthcare and life sciences.
Added Watson Health cloud offerings and capabilities include enhancements to the HIPAA-enabled data-platform-as-a-service, a GxP edition of the platform and more data centre locations. These enhancements aim to help business executives and enterprise data scientists harness the power of big data and cognitive technology, extending the reach of the Watson Platform for Health.
"Stakes are high for health data, so a health cloud environment needs to be designed differently than one built to host email or online shopping," said Rebecca Buisan, director of offering management for Watson Platform for Health. "Security and safeguards at all levels are essential. But to help speed time to compliance, a platform needs to help clients address key industry regulatory needs, whether audit, consent management, de-identification, data governance or GxP practices. Combine that with the advanced analytics and Watson cognitive services, this data platform offers a place where health and life sciences companies can truly innovate."
The data platform is designed specifically for health and life sciences development to help ease data ingestion, curation and normalisation, making it faster to get from data to insight. Enhancements include IBM Mobile Foundation support to ease the process of building HIPAA-enabled mobile applications that work with Watson Health.
The Watson Platform for Health GxP is a data platform fully managed under the Watson Health quality management system to help organisations reduce the risks, costs and time associated with compliance to FDA and global regulations.
IBM Watson Annotator for Clinical Data is a cognitive service that allows companies to unlock critical information in unstructured data. These can include physician notes, discharge summaries and pathology reports using natural language processing to deliver domain specific insights on information such as symptoms, disease, allergies and medication to help drive insights for care.
The cloud platform for health is available not only in the USA, but also in the Softlayer data centre in London. IBM recently announced it was tripling its cloud data centre capacity in London.
"IBM is working to make sure the future of cognitive computing is distributed throughout and customised to healthcare and life sciences,” said Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president at IDC Health Insights. “Watson Health's industry-specific cloud and consulting service, along with mobile solutions using Watson's technology platform, are the right kinds of steps to support broad adoption of cognitive technologies by providers, payers and other healthcare organisations."
The consulting services unit is focused on helping clients transform healthcare through leveraging the power of cognitive technology. The global group includes consulting professionals who specialise in healthcare data science, analytics, machine learning, advanced population health, real-world evidence, clinical workflow, drug discovery process design and development, user experience, and clinical workflow. The team works with clients around the globe to form strategies to improve care, identify how cognitive technology fits into these strategies, quickly implement the technology, and transform processes and operations to take advantage of the capabilities.  
With expertise in the deployment of cognitive health, the consulting services unit builds on IBM's decades of experience in enterprise business consulting to create data-driven efficiencies in the health system. To derive meaningful insights from growing bodies of health information, the unit aims to help healthcare and life science organisations redesign processes from care delivery to drug development to marketing and customer relationship management.
"The launch of the new Watson Health consulting services unit is about helping our clients transform healthcare, in quality, improved access, patient satisfaction and lower cost in the cognitive healthcare era," said Matt Porta, vice president of the Watson Health Consulting Group.
Atrius Health and IBM Watson Health have agreed to develop a cloud based service designed to improve the physician-patient experience. By providing a holistic view of the multiple influences on an individual's health, including social determinants, Watson Cognitive Insights could be designed to support shared decision making between physicians and patients. Atrius Health is a non-profit healthcare organisation with 875 physicians caring for 675,000 patients in Massachusetts.