Healthcare // Clinical Information Systems
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5/31/2011
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IBM Boosts Health Analytics With 'Watson' Supercomputer Capabilities

Advanced business intelligence technologies help extract more useful data from electronic medical records.

Inside Watson, IBM's Jeopardy Computer
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Slideshow: Inside Watson, IBM's Jeopardy Computer
As IBM increasingly focuses on helping physicians connect smartphones, tablets, and other devices to electronic medical records (EMRs), the company recently announced that it will incorporate some of the sophisticated analytics technology used in its Watson supercomputer into its Health Analytics Solution Center.

"If you look at health information technology, the next big wave of investment by healthcare organizations will be in analytics. Most institutions that need EMRs have already made that decision," said Dr. Joe Jasinksi, IBM's global industry executive for smarter healthcare and life sciences at IBM Research, in an interview. "To get the most value out of those EMRs, these organizations need to develop and use advanced analytics on the data these systems acquire, or otherwise they won't realize their investment in these tools."

The Health Analytics Solution Center will also incorporate clinical voice recognition from Nuance Communications and communications and medical terminology management from Health Language. By using these technologies, IBM is working to improve the mobile EMR experience through voice recognition and technology that provides understanding of medical text.

IBM is seeking to tap into new opportunities as health delivery organizations are increasingly using mobile devices to connect to EMRs for instant access to patient records in their office, during hospital rounds, or on call.

Updating medical records, entering notes, and accessing information on small devices with tiny keys, however, can be a difficult task. Physicians may instead choose to interact with their phones via text, voice, or a combination of both, IBM officials said.

IBM will also expand its work in remote patient monitoring at the center, as it seeks to capture more market share in the space by helping hospitals integrate and connect devices from different manufacturers, enabling patients to be closely monitored from home.

By automatically feeding patient data, such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse oximeter readings, and medication compliance, from medical devices to a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, a nurse care coordinator can monitor the patient in real time. This allows patients to recover in a comfortable setting, while still enabling caregivers to take action if and when needed, IBM said.

Among the vendors IBM is working with in the area of remote patient monitoring are Nonin Medical, Roche Group, Vignet, and MedApps, as well as many members of the Continua Health Alliance, an open industry organization of vendors delivering interoperable, personal, connected health solutions.

According to Jasinksi, some of the most exciting examples of remote patient monitoring are in post-hospital discharge surveillance to prevent hospital readmissions, and for chronic disease management for patients involved in a patient-centered medical home."The results in quality and cost savings are tangible. However, the challenges associated with the adoption of remote patient monitoring are largely financial," Jasinksi said.

One barrier to the adoption of remote patient monitoring is that Medicare does not provide reimbursement for the service. "There are still questions as to who will pay for remote monitoring and that will be sorted out over time.

The other challenge is how this impacts workflow for clinicians. Of course it certainly impacts workflow in a good way, but this must be addressed as well," Jasinksi added.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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