IBM collaborates on imaging to improve personalized care

IBM Watson Health's Kendall Square, Cambridge location

IBM ($IBM) has formed a Watson Health medical imaging collaborative alongside more than 15 health systems, academic centers, imaging technology companies and ambulatory radiology providers. The initiative aims to cut down on inefficient and uncoordinated healthcare and make imaging a daily practice for doctors treating a variety of diseases and conditions, thereby improving personalized care.

Members of the collaborative will use Watson to analyze previously "invisible" unstructured imaging data in combination with data from other sources, including electronic health records, pathology reports and medical journals among others, IBM said in a statement emailed to FierceMedicalDevices. The goal is to help doctors make personalized care decisions for individual patients as well as build a bank of information that can be of use to larger patient populations.

The first steps include training Watson on a number of conditions based on data from the initiative or from disease registries. Using these data, members could train Watson to identify cardiovascular disease early and spot frequently overlooked heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure, IBM said in the statement. The company envisions Watson "learning" how patients' hearts are likely to start failing and then monitoring the progression of the disease.

IBM highlighted eye health as another main focus. The collaborative could give rise to an evidence-based clinical decision support system for ophthalmologists and optometrists in the form of an online tool for early, image-based diagnosis of common eye diseases.

In addition to better preventive and personalized care, the collaborative could help health systems and companies save billions on inefficient and uncoordinated care. A recent Institute of Medicine study concluded that between 35% and half of the more than $3 trillion the U.S. spends on healthcare each year is wasted on suboptimal business processes and inefficient, inadequate, unnecessary and uncoordinated care. By sharing and improving the use of imaging data, IBM hopes the collaborative will reduce waste and improve the quality of care.

"There is strong potential for systems like Watson to help to make radiologists more productive, diagnoses more accurate, decisions more sound, and costs more manageable," said Nadim Michel Daher, a medical imaging and informatics analyst for Frost & Sullivan, in the statement. "This is the type of collaborative initiative needed to produce the real-world evidence and examples to advance the field of medical imaging and address patient care needs across large and growing disease states."

- here's the release