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IBM’s Watson to support pharmacy chain in predicting patient care needs

Thu 30 Jul 2015


IBM is planning to partner with U.S. retail pharmacy group CVS Health, using its supercomputer Watson to develop personalised care solutions to support chronic condition management.

The partnership, announced today, will see the companies work to build a system which can identify unnecessary medical interventions and irrelevant cost, and predict declining health in patients suffering from conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

CVS Health’s chief medical officer, Troyen A. Brennan, advised that no specific product or timeline details had been discussed. He said that the first phase of the collaboration would involve working on advanced algorithms with the aim of improving patient outcomes. Brennan argued that the technology would be able to deliver “realistic intervention” information over the next few years.

“When you go into a cognitive computing approach like this, you’re not sure what you’re going to turn up […] We’re at the point of scientific discovery, not productization,” he explained.

Looking to the future, Brennan suggested that apps could be used to feed data collected from fitness wearables to the Watson system to analyse activity levels and send alerts if abnormalities are detected.

The system could also be used by pharmacies and clinical centres to help pick out “early signals” for when a care programme is not working and alternative measures need to be considered.

“Basically, if you can identify places to intervene and intervene early, you help people be healthier and avoid costly outcomes,” he said.

Although most of CVS Health’s customers are treated for common cold symptoms, minor injuries and immunisation, it hopes that the IBM deal will help its plans to play a greater role in America’s chronic disease management.

IBM and CVS have both declined to offer any details on the finances involved in the agreement.


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