It’s happened to all of us: You go to one doctor for a referral to a specialist. You get to the specialist and they don’t have your records because the referral is from a doctor that’s not in the same network. You call your referring doctor to get the records sent and three hours, seven phone calls, two faxes, and a migraine later you finally get treated. Still, you’re asked to explain your background despite the medical history actually coming through.
While the aforementioned scenario is frustrating, it’s also quite concerning. What’s happening with all of the good information from each of your appointments? Why aren’t these doctors better connected? What’s going on with prescriptions and does Doctor 1 know what Doctor 2 is prescribing? Why aren’t different systems interacting with each other? It really makes you wonder: why is all of the healthcare data so visibly disconnected and what’s being done to address it?
Initial Diagnosis: A Dream Team for Data
What does fruit, family, the future, and medicine all have in common? A partnership that will provide robust data analytics to the healthcare sector like never before. The new Watson Health Unit, by IBM, has partnered with Apple, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), and Medtronic to capture, aggregate, and share medical data.
A New Prescription
Beyond the top selling drugs Johnson and Johnson is known for like Visine and Tylenol, the brand has a far-reaching market in pharmaceuticals and med devices. But for the future of medications, Fortune magazine summarized the J&J relationship by saying that through use of Watson – IBM’s most powerful intelligent computer – J&J will be able to gauge and measure the success of medications before beginning mass market production. Through the collaboration with IBM, the leadership team believes Watson will be the missing piece in the puzzle to outcompeting rivals like Pfizer and Merck.
The CEO of J&J told Fortune that “The [combined] role of health care and technology is going to be critical” and we couldn’t agree more. The smart analytics that Watson brings to the table increases the companies’ ability to read into a medications data and results, leading to smarter marketing and healthier decisions for market penetration.
Where Should the Money Go?
Reviewing patient history to chart progress is nothing new, but it has never been done in the capacity that is now available with Watson. University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business professor Erik Gordon said, “IBM, with its Watson project, is hugely involved in citing which treatments in the real world are actually worth the money.” Big Pharma companies will forecast what treatments or medications are currently working, where there is room for growth, and what’s being phased out. This data capture will improve overall spending for R&D and savings could potentially trickle down to lesser costs for the end-users/patients.
IBM’s newly formed Watson Health unit is an example of collaboration through and through. From the partnerships with Apple, J&J, and Medtronic to the knowledge/data sharing foundation on which it’s built, this model could be used across multiple industries to further our connections to data.