International Business Machine (NYSE:IBM)’s Watson Health biz CEO Deborah DiSanzo spoke yesterday on how the company aims to improve how healthcare firms handle and use their data and updated on partnerships with Boston Children’s Hospital and Medtronic.
DiSanzo spoke at the MassMedic conference in Boston, covering these and more issues involving the company’s cognitive computing system, including how it is handling regulatory hurdles with the software.
The Watson system currently works with 80,000 individuals across 26 industries, using machine learning, deep learning and cognitive technologies to integrate data from medical studies, records and images, DiSanzo explained.
“You don’t program Watson. Experts train him. We started training Watson in healthcare and reading medical images at Kaiser Permanente. We started training Watson in reading electronic health record information at Cleveland Clinic. Watson’s really first place he started helping doctors was at Memorial Sloan Kettering and MD Anderson in understanding how he could help oncologist do their job better. That is what Watson is,” DiSanzo said.
Watson only entered the healthcare sphere 5 years ago, DiSanzo explained, but now has more than 5,000 employees and has picked up $4 billion in acquisitions.
The motivation to sweep into healthcare was based upon the heaping amounts of data being produced in the industry, DiSanzo said, with over 150 exabytes of data available in 2011 alone. The numbers are doubling every 18 to 24 months, she added, expecting to reach a zettabyte, though DiSanzo could not state how much data that actually is.
“I didn’t even know what a zettabyte was. It’s like 1021 gigabytes or something, but it’s a huge amount of data,” CEO DiSanzo said.
The numbers are significantly off from the actual calculation, with a zettabyte being approximately equal to a billion terabytes or a thousand exabytes – and around 1,000,000,000,000 gigabytes.
The company updated on its partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital, specifically a program researching rare kidney diseases which affect about 7,000 children a year.
“For this particular kidney disease, there are 250 clinical trials on this disease. The patients, their genetics, their treatment, their outcomes, their parents’ genetics. What the physicians at Boston Children’s told us is that although they can read through 250 clinical trials, creating insights between those trials is really quite impossible for a human mind to do, but not impossible for Watson,” DiSanzo said.
After ingesting the information, Watson is able to provide suggested best pathways for the clinical trials, tailoring the pathways in clinical trials for the specific patients, diseases and genetic makeup, DiSanzo stated.
With Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), DiSanzo said it was working to improve outcomes in knee replacement surgeries – looking to improve cost effectiveness as bundled payments systems from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid go into effect.
“IBM is working with Johnson and Johnson on is healthy knees and that is before and after knee replacement surgery, how can Johnson and Johnson help their patients prepare for the surgery so they have the best outcome possible and then recover from the surgery to reduce complications and reduce bounce backs into the hospitals. It is really a terrific program and so very glad, IBM is so very proud to be working with Johnson and Johnson on this to really help make a difference in healthy knees,” DiSanzo said.
When asked about the company’s regulatory strategy, DiSanzo reiterated that the company has had a quality management system from the 2nd day she took the reins, saying she didn’t “believe in walking to the edge” of regulatory compliance.
“A very short thing is, I don’t believe I’m walking on the edge. I believe that Watson can make a tremendous difference to the world in helping physicians treat the clinicians and for our partners like Medtronic and Teva and Johnson & Johnson. We need to certify for them that we’re medical device compliant. All of this is being developed under a quality management system with design controls, etc,” DiSanzo explained.
In January, The CEOs of Medtronic and IBM unveiled a the fruits of the project they’ve been working on since last April, combining the IBM Watson artificial intelligence platform with Medtronic’s insulin management devices.
Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak joined IBM chief Ginni Rometty last night at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to unveil the app, which is designed to detect low blood sugar events before they happen.
A pilot study of anonymized data from 600 patients with Medtronic insulin pumps and glucometers, using “cognitive analytics” powered by Watson, found that the system could predict a hypoglycemic event up to 3 hours ahead, Medtronic’s diabetes president Annette Brüls wrote in a blog post yesterday.