By Kyu Rhee
When it comes to transforming healthcare, IBM started by looking at what we could do for our own employees. More than a decade ago, thought leaders within the company helped shape one of the most important concepts in healthcare today–patient-centered primary care.
That’s the idea that healthcare should be organized around the individual and that all of the organizations and healthcare providers involved should coordinate to deliver truly personalized services addressing everything from promoting healthy lifestyles to treating diseases.
Since then, we’ve been on a steady march to infuse people-centric, relationship-based thinking into every aspect of healthcare and wellness at IBM–and we’re committed to creating technology-based solutions that give organizations and healthcare providers worldwide the tools for improving the health and well-being of their populations.
Today, we’re taking another step forward with a sweeping partnership with CVS Health aimed at transforming the way individuals and their caregivers engage with essential members of that patient-centered, community-based primary care team—CVS pharmacists and healthcare providers at your local CVS Minute Clinic. These team members are committed to not only address your acute healthcare needs including a sore throat or a sinus infection, but also manage key chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, depression, and cancer.
Our two companies will develop new, cognitive computing systems for health management through CVS’s extraordinary, national network of community-based pharmacies and in-store clinics to predict, prevent and personalize.
• To predict, we will apply Watson’s cognitive computing to a wide range of data from electronic medical records, pharmacy records, wearables, fitness devices, home monitoring devices, consumer-oriented mobile apps, and more.
• To prevent, we plan to help the populations we serve by improving health and reducing bad health outcomes such as hospitalizations and unnecessary emergency room visits.
• To personalize, we will leverage Watson’s extraordinary capabilities to translate scientific, evidence-based guidelines and interventions into real world practice, empowering CVS pharmacists and healthcare providers to better individualize, customize and “nudge” patients towards their best possible health..
This partnership will never replace the important relationship between patients and their primary care providers. But we think technology that helps manage disease when and where it most convenient for the individual has the potential to improve health and extend lives even while reducing overall healthcare costs for society.
One of the critical issues here is helping individuals to follow their doctor’s orders–taking medications in ways that will improve their health. Do people take the drugs their doctors have prescribed as often as they are supposed to, at the right time of day and in the right combination with food or other prescriptions? Are the medications effective in reducing symptoms, improving key biometric results, and assuring better health? When people don’t follow instructions, their health suffers–and it could lead bad health outcomes, including surgeries, hospitalizations, and irreparable organ damage
Another key element is easy access to healthcare and advice. People value convenience and access, and we need to recognize that retail clinics are an essential component of the US healthcare ecosystem.
People often delay care or treatment due to access issues. How often have you or a family member been in a situation where you need to wait weeks to get an appointment with your doctor? Working with CVS, we’ll leverage Watson to develop technologies and evidence-based, techniques that personalize engagement and proactively engage neighborhood CVS Minute Clinic clinicians before a bad health outcome emerges. In addition, our solutions will seamlessly integrate these engagements with the other key members of the patient’s care team, including the primary care clinician.
This is part of a long march of progress at IBM. We believe that to foster better health and wellness, it’s important to take a holistic view–addressing not just a person’s physical health but their mental health, their social relationships, their financial well-being and their overall sense of purpose. We call these the five dimensions of health.
You see this philosophy reflected in many of the things we do. Our CaféWell engagement platform, which we developed with Welltok, offers our employees a one-stop portal for addressing all five dimensions. We were one of the first major corporations to introduce wellness incentives. We offer fitness wearables to our employees.
The way we deal with pharmacies, prescriptions, and retail clinics shows how our thinking has changed over time. In the past, we primarily used on-line and mail-order pharmacy services. The focus was on improving convenience and reducing costs. Then, in partnership with CVS Health, we shifted to a relationship-based approach. At CVS stores, our people get advice from pharmacists and convenient care for health issues. This approach is working. Already, we have boosted the prescription adherence rate among our employees and their families and thousands have taken advantage of the convenient clinics
As a physician who has spent much of my career focused on public health issues, being involved in this initiative and anticipating its potential impact on the rising tide of chronic diseases is tremendously exciting. With this community-based, relationship-centered, data-driven approach, we have the opportunity to predict, personalize, prevent, and transform healthcare on a global scale–fostering a healthier and happier planet.
To learn more about the next era of computing, read Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing.