IBM's New Boston Health Unit Will House 2,000 Employees

IBM's New Boston Health Unit Will House 2,000 Employees
April 14, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SAN FRANCISCO -- Business-giant IBM Corporation , in collaboration with Apple , Medtronic, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson , is using its artificial intelligence unit to provide potential life-saving data analytics generated from personal devices to the healthcare providers, Reuters reported this morning.

The company’s new Watson Health unit will aggregate health information from personal health, medical and fitness devices and provide the information to larger health companies. With the increasing prevalence of personal fitness trackers, connected medical devices, implantables and other sensors that collect real-time information, the average person is likely to generate more than one million gigabytes of health-related data in their lifetime, IBM said in a press release. The HIPAA-enabled Watson Health Cloud will enable secure access to individualized insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people’s health.

The new unit will be based in Boston and employ more than 2,000, including about 75 medical practitioners. To boost its data analytics goal, IBM announced it also purchased two health technology firms, Cleveland-based Explorys and Dallas-based Phytel for an undisclosed amount. The Watson Health unit will include IBM’s existing Smarter Care and Social Programs practice, which was created three years ago following the acquisition of Curam Software, a provider of health and social program management solutions. IBM has more than 1,300 patents in healthcare, life sciences and medical devices.

IBM’s proposal is taking advantage of greater numbers of health records becoming digitized. However, the amount of data available can be overwhelming and IBM’s platform will allow healthcare workers better access and ability to streamline their needs, John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president, solutions portfolio and research, said in a statement.

“We need better ways to tap into and analyze all of this information in real-time to benefit patients and to improve wellness globally. Only IBM has the advanced cognitive capabilities of Watson and can pull together the vast ecosystem of partners, practitioners and researchers needed to drive change, as well as to provide the open, secure and scalable platform needed to make it all possible,” Kelly said.

Watson Health will provide analytics to Apple's forays into the health business, HealthKit and ResearchKit, Reuters said. Apple's HealthKit allows developers to create health apps designed to give users a comprehensive way to manage their health and fitness. ResearchKit is an open source software framework that gives medical researchers the tools to accelerate medical studies, IBM said.

Jeff Williams, a senior vice president at Apple, said ResearchKit will allow development of apps for mobile devices that provide researchers “rich data from a diverse global population” that will “provide additional tools to help accelerate discoveries across a wide variety of health issues.”

Johnson & Johnson said it will work with IBM “on mobile-based coaching systems to help patients before or after surgery and will launch new health apps targeting chronic conditions,” Reuters reported. Additionally the company will work with IBM and look to launch new health apps targeting chronic conditions, which currently cost consumers as much as 80 percent of the $7 trillion global healthcare spend, IBM said.

Likewise, Medtronic, Inc., a medical device maker, will work with IBM on personalized care solutions to analyze patient data from various Medtronic devices such as insulin pumps and glucose monitors, then use the information to provide personalized diabetes management strategies to patients and providers.

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