IBM announced a new business unit, Watson Health, that will offer cloud-based access to its Watson supercomputer for analyzing healthcare data.
The Watson Health Cloud will be an open source but secure platform on which care providers and researchers can share and analyze health data for greater insights into trends to improve individual and overall patient outcomes.
IBM, which made the announcement at the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Chicago, also said it has acquired big data healthcare analytics providers Phytel and Explorys, whose software will be used in concert with Watson Health.
The Explorys platform enables healthcare systems to collect, link and combine data from hundreds of disparate sources across their enterprise and clinically integrated networks. This data will be derived from clinical, claims, billing, accounting, devices, community and patient information.
Phytel develops and sells cloud-based services that help healthcare providers coordinate care in order to meet new healthcare quality requirements and reimbursement models.
"Their data sets represent 90 million lives, primarily in this country," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM's Watson Business Group.
Additionally, IBM announced three new partnerships with Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic to optimize consumer and medical devices.
IBM will apply Watson Health cloud services and analytics to Apple's HealthKit and ResearchKit, two features announced with last month's release of Apple Watch. HealthKit enables the collection of data from the Apple Watch, and ResearchKit enables Apple Watch wearers to take part in massive health data studies by sharing the baseline vital signs and activity data.
Apple engineers have been working with dozens of research institutes, such as the Mayo Clinic, in developing apps that will help in research on Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, asthma and breast cancer.
IBM will provide a secure research capability on the Watson Health Cloud platform, de-identifying personal data to allow researchers to easily store, aggregate and model information collected from iOS users who opt-in to contribute personal data to medical research.
Johnson & Johnson will collaborate with IBM to create intelligent health coaching systems centered on preoperative and postoperative patient care, including joint replacement and spinal surgery.
"There's so much we have to learn with this sea of data," said Len Greer, president of Health and Wellness Solutions at Johnson & Johnson. "We're going to start this collaboration [with IBM's Watson Health] with joint replacement surgery... joints, knees and hips."
Johnson & Johnson recently launched Patient Athlete, a pre and post operative video health coaching program, but Watson's analytics and "cognitive" capability will enable the program to grow into a virtual patient coach, working with patient data to tailor a post-operative recovery coaching program.
Johnson & Johnson also plans to launch new health apps targeting chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, which take up as much as 80% of $7 trillion global healthcare spending, according to Greer.
Medtronic will leverage the Watson Health Cloud insights platform to collaborate with IBM around delivery of new highly personalized care management services for people with diabetes. The system will receive and analyze patient information and data from various devices including insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, and use this information to provide dynamic, personalized diabetes management strategies to patients and their providers.
Rhoden said Watson Health will include the open source sharing of code, so that any company can become a partner and develop applications for the platform.
"They'll be solutions we bring to market, solutions we work with others to bring to market, and startups can even take advantage of the analytics to build future solutions," Rhoden said.