Cleveland Clinic, IBM bolster technology partnership

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Continuing their decades-long relationship, the Cleveland Clinic and IBM have announced a five-year agreement to expand the Clinic’s health IT capabilities, including the use of IBM’s secured cloud, social, mobile and Watson cognitive computing technologies across its clinical and administrative operations.

Some of the goals of the collaboration include establishing a model for the healthcare system’s transition to value-based care and population health, as well as uncovering potential standards that could be replicated by providers nationwide.

“As the healthcare industry grows increasingly dependent on technology to deliver efficient, high-quality and affordable care, the new technology implementation is designed to enable efficient analysis of data from electronic health records, information from administrative claims and social determinants of health, allowing for both personalized clinical care and broader population-focused management,” according to the announcement from both organizations.

The Cleveland Clinic was an early adopter of the Epic EHR system, according to Doug Smith, the organization’s interim chief information officer, who notes that the partnership with IBM will better capture the value of this data and enhance patient care across its nine regional hospitals and 18 full-service family health centers.

“Predictive analytics and population health at the point of care is incredibly important for how we will deliver care in the future,” says Smith. “Analytics, cognitive computing, and advanced capabilities will enable us to provide quality, affordable care.”

The cognitive computing capabilities of IBM’s Watson supercomputer have been a particular area of focus between Big Blue and the Cleveland Clinic over the past five years:

  • 2011—After Watson’s successful debut on Jeopardy!, IBM and Cleveland Clinic joined forces to train the technology to “think” like a doctor.
  • 2013—IBM Research initiated an ongoing collaboration with Cleveland Clinic faculty, physicians and students to develop a Watson EHR assistant to help physicians quickly summarize and cull relevant insights from EHRs.
  • 2014—Cleveland Clinic began its pilot of Watson for Genomics to aid its research into new cancer treatments based on a patient's genetic makeup. Cleveland Clinic continues to use the technology for genomic interpretation.
  • 2014—Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University announced that IBM Watson would play a significant role as a tool to help students analyze symptoms based on evidence-based insights rather than rote memorization. The cognitive technology will become a vital part of a new $515 million Health Education Campus opening in 2019.

“For the past five years, Cleveland Clinic has been central to IBM’s effort to build Watson’s cognitive capabilities in healthcare,” said Deborah DiSanzo, general manager of IBM Watson Health. “Together, we will bring cognitive computing and an entire portfolio of IBM technology offerings to transform clinical care and administrative operations across the Cleveland Clinic, and help its renowned care providers deliver evidence-based, personalized and cognitive care to the individual patients they serve and the populations they manage.”

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In addition, Smith points to IBM’s 2015 acquisition of Explorys, a population health analytics vendor, which was developed by Cleveland Clinic physicians and IT experts before becoming a spin-off company in 2009—as an example of the technological cross-pollination between the two organizations.

“It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship. We’re creating value for each other,” concludes Smith. “That’s the kind of partnership it has been, and it will continue. The sky’s the limit.”

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