How IBM Watson is Revolutionizing Healthcare

If you’ve been following big data the past several years, chances are you’ve heard of IBM’s Watson. To recap, Watson is IBM’s revolutionary commercial computing capability that utilizes the cloud in order to process high volumes of data and then turns this data into evidence-based answers when presented with questions in natural language. Put simply, Watson is a cloud-based supercomputer that companies can make use of. Watson’s ability to comb the cloud for data makes it a catalyst for great change in the healthcare industry. In fact, in 2015 IBM launched IBM Watson Health and the Watson Health Cloud platform specifically designed to assist physicians, researchers, and insurers in harnessing the great amount of personal health data being circulated around the cloud.

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IBM Watson is revolutionizing how the world analyzes health data.

IBM’s recent collaboration with Welltok and and Pathway Genomics illustrate two ways that Watson is revolutionizing population health management.

Welltok and Improving Heart Health

In line with a number of other initiatives this National Heart Month, IBM has revealed plans to team up with the social health management company Welltok and the American Heart Association (AHA) in order to develop workplace technology that improves heart health. The unnamed app will make use of AHA’s Workplace Health Achievement Index, which uses best practices “to measure and rank corporate health initiatives” and give an overall assessment on workplace health culture.

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Welltok’s most recent project comes on the heels of a similar workplace health platform developed specifically for IBM offices.

Employees could take advantage of Welltok’s platform by filling out the AHA’s My Life Questionnaire, at the core of which is the AHA’s Simple 7 key cardiovascular health indicators: not smoking, eating healthy, being physically active, achieving and maintaing a healthy weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, and reducing blood sugar. Using the data from this questionnaire, as well as that from other of IoT devices–from wearable fitness trackers to wifi-connected scales–Welltok would be able to tailor health recommendations to the individual needs of each employee.

Optimal population health management is all about pooling resources. It’s about pooling data.  In this case, we see how IBM’s computing capability, Welltok’s health platform, and AHA’s metrics would all work together for better healthcare outcomes.

Pathway Genomics

In January, IBM teamed up with Pathway Genomics teamed up to create another personalized healthcare app. Instead of targeting workplace heart health, Pathway’s OME makes use of information from Pathway’s “FIT” Test, which takes a look at a number of metrics including exercise and genetic predisposition, and pulls metrics from a number of IoT sources, such as wearable health monitors and Apple HealthKit.

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Pathway Genomics’ OME delivers health recommendations based on your genetic traits.

Critical to this platform is the analysis of genetic traits and their effects on health. After receiving approval from a licensed physician, participants receive a saliva DNA collection kit. Pathway uses this to conduct their FIT test, which looks at 75 genes that deal with a number of health factors. The insights gained from the FIT test are then incorporated into personal wellness plans.

More to Come

Both the Welltock and Pathway Genomics collaborations with IBM Watson illustrate the boon of integrated systems in population health. But we’re just scratching the surface. Welltok’s platform focuses on workplace health and Pathway Genomics’ OME focuses on genetic predisposition, but what if the two technologies could work together instead of separately? What if both genetic predisposition and genetics were compared in one’s personalized healthcare recommendations? We’re well on our way to finding out.