IBM, CVS Partner On Watson-Based Patient Care - InformationWeek
IoT
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Healthcare // Analytics
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7/30/2015
05:15 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary
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IBM, CVS Partner On Watson-Based Patient Care

A new agreement by IBM and CVS will use Watson to better manage patient care. However, there are a few concerns about privacy.

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IBM and CVS Health are entering into a new partnership that will see Big Blue's Watson computing engine utilized as a way to provide care management services for CVS patients suffering from chronic diseases.

The partnership, which both companies announced Thursday, is aimed at enabling health care practitioners to gain insights from a wide mix of health information sources, including medical health records, pharmacy and medical claims information, environmental factors, and fitness devices.

The goal of this is to help those suffering from long-term illnesses stick to their prescribed treatment, while cutting down on medical costs.

If successful, IBM and CVS are also looking to offer this service to insurers and other entities that serve the employer and health plan market. The two companies assert that they want to identify individuals whose health maybe declining and who may benefit from what they are calling "proactive, customized engagement programs."

The Watson-based program would also encourage patients to adopt healthy behaviors, including adherence to prescribed medicines and lifestyle regimens. It would also suggest appropriate uses of cost-effective primary care and out-patient providers.

(Image: Clockready via Wikipedia)

(Image: Clockready via Wikipedia)

In a prepared statement, Dr. Troyen A. Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer for CVS, said: "This partnership will enable us to leverage advanced technologies and key health information to develop a tool that can be applied by a variety of health care providers such as pharmacists, nurse practitioners at MinuteClinics or connected health care providers, and that can help our pharmacy benefit management clients improve member health and manage cost."

MinuteClinics are mini-medical centers staffed by nurses and located within CVS stores. And it might be that this is the true beneficiary of the partnership. By focusing on chronic medical conditions that usually require repeated treatment visits, CVS may be looking for Watson to recommend referrals to their facilities.

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Such visits would probably cost less than a visit to a doctor's office for equivalent treatment, thereby "managing cost" as Brennan put it. What's notable, is that patient confidentiality has not been mentioned in announcements by the either IBM or CVS. However, CVS spokesperson Christine Cramer wrote in an email to InformationWeek: "Patient information would only be used with the patient's consent and knowledge."

When asked in an email about the direction of the program and whether or not it was simply a tool for insurers to use, Cramer responded: "It's hard to say at this point exactly how the product will be used or implemented as the partnership is just beginning. We're currently in scientific discovery and will be working with IBM to develop the best solution that can make the most impact in advancing patient care for those with chronic conditions."

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2015 | 4:11:02 PM
Re: Sounds great.
I would hope they would want more medical history than just their clinics and pharmacies. ..didn't seem very thorough to me.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2015 | 2:29:55 PM
Sounds great.
This sounds like a great idea. Some medical information may be hard to gather. Some doctors, like my family doctor, are sick in the stone age. The only thing they use a computer for is scheduling appointments. They don't even use email.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2015 | 1:31:03 PM
Re: Sounds great.
Well, I don't think anything a business has ever done is solely for the customer. But I'm OK with a company finding a way to serve the customer and make money at the same time.

larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
7/31/2015 | 1:29:03 PM
Re: Sounds great.
CVS is counting on that credibility here.

I still think is a way for CVS to manage the RNs with an automated system that will protect them from liability suits.

Both IBM and CVS are presenting this as an altruistic advance, but my cynical eyes see it as a way for CVS to manage their staff. 

It may be that some patient good will come out of it by invoking some sort of sanity check, but that isn't why these two are doing your drugs together.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2015 | 1:19:42 PM
Re: Sounds great.
@larry- I think my biggest issue is that I don't want to undress in front of a computer. :)

No, seriously, I think this makes total sense. I've noticed pharmacies around my area slowly retooling with private rooms and exam areas for a while so that they could deliver non-urgent, assembly line care like vaccines and lab work for a while. I like the idea of starting to strip some of this from the overly stuffy and overly regulated medical industry as long as it is backed with good science and smart uses of technology. Watson helps lend some credibility to the whole thing.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
7/31/2015 | 12:51:17 PM
Re: Sounds great.
Your family doctor isn't who they are aiming this at.

They want to manage the RNs in their MinuteClinics so that they dont kill someone and open CVS up to liability lawsuits.

Yes, I am cynical about it.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2015 | 11:11:31 AM
Sounds great.
This sounds like a great idea. Some medical information may be hard to gather. Some doctors, like my family doctor, are sick in the stone age. The only thing they use a computer for is scheduling appointments. They don't even use email.
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