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IBM Bolsters Scientific Research to Improve Healthcare Quality

Hires M.D.s to Work Alongside Scientists in New $100 Million Research Initiative

IBM on Thursday announced plans to enlist some of the company's leading scientists and technologists to help medical practitioners and insurance companies provide high-quality, evidence-based care to patients. As part of this initiative, IBM is collaborating with clinicians in medical institutions and hiring medical doctors to work alongside its researchers to develop new technologies, scientific advancements and business processes for healthcare and insurance providers.

Dedicating $100 million over the next three years, the initiative will draw on IBM's leadership in systems integration, services research, cloud computing, analytics and emerging scientific areas - such as nanomedicine and computational biology - to drive innovations that empower practitioners to focus their efforts on patient care.

More than 100 researchers across IBM's nine worldwide research laboratories and its collaboratories in Melbourne, Australia, and Taipei, Taiwan, are contributing to these efforts. As part of this initiative, IBM expects to hire several physicians, clinicians, nurses, engineers, economists and social scientists. Additionally, the company will seek new research collaborations with businesses, governments and universities. IBM will focus its research on three main areas:

  • Evidence generation, which uses scientific methods to utilize health data to help develop effective treatment methodologies, and then deliver it in a context-dependant and personalized way at the point of care;
  • Improving service quality through simplifying the healthcare delivery process; and
  • New incentives and models to shift the healthcare system to one that rewards based on patient outcomes rather than only treatment and volume of care.

Privacy and security of patient data and compliance with current healthcare regulations will be addressed throughout the new research initiative.

"Improving the quality of healthcare requires more than just digitizing health data," said Chalapathy Neti, Global Lead, Healthcare Transformation at IBM Research. "In fact the proliferation of diagnostics technology has in many ways added another layer of complexity, making it more difficult to gain valuable insights for patient care. Enabling greater coordination between care providers and transforming data into clinical decision intelligence could improve patient outcomes and help lower costs of healthcare today."

Putting Medical Evidence to Use

Today, advanced diagnostics -- tests that aim to detect illness and identify potential health risks -- can lead to earlier intervention for patients and provide clinicians with a wealth of information. The raw data that comes from these tests can be converted into "evidence" or actionable information for clinicians. With the amount of digital information patients amass over time, it is critical that doctors are able to integrate and analyze data from many different sources - such as patient demographics, lab tests, modality studies such as EKGs and echo videos, specialist interpretations, etc. - to form a holistic picture of a patient's condition and make more informed judgments and decisions in treatment.

IBM researchers across the globe are collaborating on a variety of efforts to help bring more a more evidence-based approach to patient care. Current research efforts include:

  • Computer scientists are working with cardiologists to create a system that helps identify difficult-to-see patterns in symptoms and characteristics across a patient set that gives better insight into diagnoses and the comparative effectiveness of different treatments and outcomes.

More Stories By Pat Romanski

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