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IBM Announces $100 Million Health IT Program

The initiative will drive IBM's cloud computing, data analytics plans across the healthcare industry to enhance evidence generation, service quality, privacy and new incentive models.

IBM announced Thursday that it will spend $100 million over the next three years to develop technology solutions in areas such as systems integration, services research, cloud computing and analytics -- as well as emerging scientific areas such as nanomedicine and computational biology -- to drive technology innovations that will assist doctors, nurses and other clinicians in efforts to improve quality patient care.

As part of the initiative, IBM expects to hire approximately 100 experts including doctors, clinicians, nurses, engineers, economists and social scientists who will work with IBM's researchers and engineers to forge new innovations in health information technology. Additionally, the company will seek new research collaborations with businesses, governments and universities.

Company executives said IBM will focus its research on several areas such as evidence generation, which uses scientific methods to turn raw health data into proof of effective treatment methods, which can be used by healthcare providers at the point of care.

Other areas of focus include improving service quality through simplifying the healthcare delivery process, and developing new incentives and models that will transform the healthcare system from one that rewards treatment and volume of care to one that increasingly values outcomes and healthier patients. Privacy and security of patient data and compliance with current healthcare regulations will also be addressed throughout the new research initiative.

"If these areas are addressed in a substantive way by bringing together a lot of the work that we have been doing over the years into greater coherence and focus, we will be able to help the payers, providers and other pharmaceutical companies and other parts of the healthcare system to do their job much more effectively while lowering costs and improving clinical outcomes," Chalapathy Neti, global lead, Healthcare Transformation at IBM Research, said in an interview with InformationWeek.

Turning his attention to cloud computing, Neti said IBM is looking at several models that the company thinks will be suitable to fulfill the needs of healthcare providers.

"We are looking at a wide variety of different models where cloud computing will be applicable. One key area where we believe cloud will be valuable is for large scale comparative effectiveness infrastructures to allow for massive scale aggregation of data and creating a data model that will allow us to analyze the data to get these comparable effectiveness insights. But we are looking at lots of other areas where cloud will be very valuable," Neti said.

Executives at IBM also note that part of the initiative will be to develop solutions to drive greater efficiency and streamline processes at health insurance companies. According to IBM officials, evolving regulatory and security requirements are adding complexity to the relationship between patient and health plans and it is more difficult to track decisions and manage costs.

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