IBM partners with Apple and Johnson & Johnson as it pushes Watson into medicine
Tue 14 Apr 2015
IBM has announced new developments in creating its health care cloud, using its Watson artificial intelligence (AI) system to allow for remote and secure use of medical data fed from hospitals, health facilities and consumer devices such as smartphones and wearables.
“We are convinced that by the size and scale of what we’re doing we can transform this industry,” said John Kelley, senior vice president, IBM Research. “I’m convinced that now is the time.”
Big Blue also revealed that it would be launching a dedicated Watson-in-medicine business unit with over 2,000 employees. To support the new strategy the U.S. giant has also acquired two new businesses; Explorys – a Cleveland-based analytics firm with access to 50mn patient medical records, and Phytel – a healthcare service from Dallas which delivers feedback to doctors and patients involved in follow-up treatment.
Alongside the acquisitions, IBM announced three high-profile partnerships with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic. It plans to work with Apple to integrate its Watson-based apps with developer tools HealthKit and ResearchKit to help gather personal health data which can be used in clinical trials.
Johnson & Johnson has also joined with IBM to deploy Watson in developing its personal concierge services for patients currently undergoing and recovering from knee and hip surgery. Meanwhile Medtronic, one of the largest makers of implantable heart devices and diabetes products, plans to build an IoT network for its medical devices which would collect medical data both for personal use by patients and for use by the company to determine the effectiveness of its products.
IBM hopes that it will be able to develop a new healthcare system that can efficiently link old electronic patient records dating back to the 1970s with new digital data stored in the cloud.
IBM is not alone in its bid to become the leader in 21st century health technologies. NantHealth, a startup founded by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, is currently creating a similar platform to connect medical records across the cloud. Analytics startup Flatiron health is also working to build a tool for tracking progress of cancer treatments, while established medical technology firms Cerner and Epic are both battling to tap into this rapidly growing market.