Cognitive health systems provide custom analysis for employees

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With the healthcare price tag rising to $10,000 or more a year per person, employers and healthcare providers looking to lower costs and help employees manage their health are turning to big data and analytics to better handle surging costs.

“By 2020, healthcare data will be doubling every 73 days,” Deborah DiSanzo, general manager of IBM Watson Health said. “Do you think you can keep up with any data if it was doubling every 73 days?”

But cognitive systems more and more are helping get physicians access to data to care for their patients, she said. The services integrate patient-level data from health records and other sources to create a better picture of patient populations, risk factors and other red flags at the individual, group and population level in order to improve patient outcomes.

DiSanzo, speaking Thursday at the National Business Group on Health’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., discussed how employers can make use of different solutions. That includes the tech giant’s supercomputer, Watson, which analyzes clinical data alongside claims data to better create customized models for employers and help their workers make healthcare choices.

Telling a personal story of her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, DiSanzo described her journey in meeting several experts and receiving a number of conflicting recommendations — from getting chemotherapy to not getting chemotherapy, or receiving a lumpectomy versus a mastectomy.

Uploading her medical information into Watson, she was able to get a clearer path forward based on personalized data analysis.

“This isn’t replacing doctors, it’s assisting. [It’s] using data to help doctors care for their patients,” she emphasized. Watson reduces variability by looking across tens of thousands of data to find a pass that works most effectively for a patient, she said.

It’s providing greater marketplace efficiency while helping employees making better informed decisions to breaking bad habits.

Despite all the data Watson can digest — having read more than 40 million health publications — the augmented, and not artificial intelligence DiZanzo asserted, is “constantly ingesting new information about latest and greatest treatments in oncology.”

And as Watson continues to learn about better cancer treatments, so will employers. With the power of cognitive systems, the goal is to get employees the best possible treatment to keep cost and quality balanced, she says.

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