IBM’s Watson Health aims to build a “cloud ecosystem”that is so customer-centric a patient’s care manager can know precisely when a person’s health status begins to deteriorate.
Increasingly, patients see themselves as health care consumers, as writer Lola Butcher describes in her November Hospitals & Health Networks’ cover story, “6 Ways the Health Care Consumer Will — and Is — Changing Our World” and they will expect to be connected with their providers 24/7. Watson Health imagines this connectivity running largely through health and fitness wearables and other apps via cloud computing, and on to whichever appropriate providers are appropriate, like the hospital, retail clinic, primary physician group and even the optometrist and dentist.
For example, a patient’s Apple HealthKit app —in which multiple health apps share data —might alert the provider that over the last few days, the individual has walked only a small percentage of the number of steps he usually does. Or a bluetooth-enabled scale tells the patient’s phone he’s had significant weight change in a given week, which in turn tells Watson. Watson then alerts the care manager that something is up.
“So much happens to us between the times we go to the doctor’s office,” said Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, vice president, partnerships & solutions for Watson Health. “There are ways that those things are already being measured that can easily be given to the provider to get a better picture of the patient, maybe to reach out to them proactively, before a real problem lands them in the emergency room. It puts the patient at the center of the equation.”
Watson Health sees itself as the place where the consumers’ information meets providers’ ears and eyes through a myriad of offerings and partnerships, she said.
Launched in April, the Watson Health platform purchased Phytel for its patient engagement capabilities, Explorys for its health care intelligence and, most recently, Merge Healthcare, a medical imaging processor. Watson Health also has formed partnerships with Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, as well asApple, with which it is creating health care offerings on the wearable front through Apple HealthKit, and in consumer data collection through Apple ResearchKit.