IBM Watson Health focused on value-based care, physician burnout, personalized medicine

IBM Watson Health, known throughout the industry for its artificial intelligence work, has identified three major trends that will impact healthcare and health IT in 2019: value-based care, physician burnout and personalized medicine. The company will be discussing these – and showcasing technologies designed to help manage them – at HIMSS19.

Making better decisions

One trend that healthcare CIOs need to be on top of is pay-for-performance and value-based care, of course. Risk-based reimbursement  isn’t going anywhere – and in fact is only getting greater emphasis, said Dr. Anil Jain, vice president and chief health information officer at IBM Watson Health.

“We bring traditional analytics and tooling to the management of value-based care, and the injection of AI and machine learning to make better decisions in the back office and front lines that will help improve value-based care so these healthcare organizations are performing well in a setting where even as pressure is released from regulators there is increased pressure from payers who hold the contracts,” he said.

Another related thing important for healthcare CIOs to understand is there is consolidation happening between providers and payers and the kinds of tools and partnerships needed to navigate these complicated arrangements to deliver the business models that healthcare is demanding will include the capabilities that IBM has to offer, said Jain.

The big question, he said, is “How do you bring people together in this environment so that data is being used appropriately? It is tangential to value-based care, it is about emerging business models that tie providers and payers together. Payers’ business models are evolving as well. They are trying to deliver higher value services to their members as we see healthcare employees and patients apply pressure on what the health plan of the future should look like.”

So CIOs need to find the right tools, partners and people to navigate this transformation because it is accelerating, he said.

Combating physician burnout

Dr. Jain still sees patients periodically at the Cleveland Clinic – and he sees firsthand that physician burnout is a very real phenomenon.

“CIOs of health systems need to understand the most precious asset is their employees, and among those employees are physicians and clinicians extending the role of physicians,” he said. “More technology is not the answer. Pouring more and more to extend the capabilities of EHR vendors is not necessarily the answer. And reducing the volume of patient care is obviously not the answer.”

According to Jain, the question is: How does an entire group of physicians leverage the technology at their disposal and bring back the joy of medicine?

“In various conversations at HIMSS19, we will be asking what is the obligation for companies like IBM Watson Health to reduce burnout rather than contribute to IT complexity,” he said. “We have projects and research efforts to get a handle on information overload and translate that into insights and having technologies that help the clinician rather than hinder them.”

“In various conversations at HIMSS19, we will be asking what is the obligation for companies like IBM Watson Health to reduce burnout rather than contribute to IT complexity.”

Dr. Anil Jain, IBM Watson Health

IBM as a company has to improve the welfare of clinicians at the front line, he stated.

“We will be able to address it not just in radiology like having clinician advisers through AI and Watson, but also early work with healthcare leaders around taking an entire generation of primary care doctors and making them more efficient without adding to their burnout,” he said.

Pursuing personalized health

One of the areas in which healthcare must excel is looking at the population as a whole, using evidence-based medicine along with guidelines to do what is best for the patient, Jain said.

But what CIOs need to understand – and what IBM is pushing in a big way, he said – is that the industry for the first time, through leveraging data analytics and AI, can make a pivot to the so-called Holy Grail of healthcare: doing personalized medicine at scale.

The imperative for health systems is to “incorporate their clinical data from EHRs but also genomic data, social determinants of health and much more,” said Jain. “How do we use all the indicators that are available to deliver a more personalized approach to treatment and diagnostics?”

It’s no small challenge, he said: “If you get really, really good at evidence-based medicine, how do you bring it to the person sitting across from you?”

Healthcare CIOs must deploy robust care management systems for clinicians to use to really think about an individual’s life and what the best treatment course is, said Jain.

“We are in a good position to be talking with CIOs, CMIOs and CMOs about how we pivot from evidence-based medicine and population health and pockets of precision medicine and now start thinking about precision health to deliver cost-effective care with great outcomes,” he said.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]

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