CVS Health Taps IBM’s Watson To Predict Patient Health Decline Before It Happens

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CVS and IBM have teamed up to stop chronic diseases patients from having a medical emergency before it gets to that point. The pharmacy will use Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing technology, to predict chronic disease patients in danger based on red flag behaviors.

Watson is built on a similar learning process as the human brain. It observes the data, interprets it, evaluate recognizable patterns and then decides a course of action. But unlike our tiny tissue brains, Watson has the capacity to sort through and rapidly compute millions of data points through sophisticated circuitry and software to make those useful connections much faster.

Watson recently teamed up with Bon Appetite magazine to create an app that could suggest recipes with the kinds of flavor combinations humans might like to eat, but wouldn’t be readily apparent. Called Chef Watson, IBM’s cognitive computer suggested things like caviar combined with mango as a tasty dish.

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.
— Troyen A. Brennan, IBM Watson
This is also not the first time Watson has been used in the medical field, either. Several medical care companies work within what IBM calls the Watson ecosystem, including genieMD’s mobile patient care platform and Point of Care, which allows doctors to access peer-reviewed disease cases on a mobile platform, to pull unrealized health care information from those platforms.

CVS will allow Watson to scour many millions of data points from patients’ clinical records, medical claims, and fitness devices to go through the same cognition process as others within the Watson ecosystem, but the idea here is to aid CVS nurses and pharmacists in determining patient risk.

Watson has its work cut out for it in the health care market. Chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes is the leading cause of death and disability and makes up a large chunk of the roughly $2.9 trillion spent on health care annually in the U.S., according to national health expenditure data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

CVS has 7,600 retail drugstores, more than 1,000 walk-in medical clinics and pharmacy benefits management programs that touch more than 70 million plan members. Combined, it has the potential to reach a massive audience that could benefit from Watson’s insights on patient behaviors that go unreported to their doctor.

The partnership will also bring together Watson’s Health Cloud, which helps doctors and insurers gain health insights from massive amounts of personal health data uploaded to the system on a daily basis.

“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,” said chief medical officer Troyen A. Brennan.

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