IBM Watson Health has announced plans to invest $50 million in a research collaboration with two academic medical centers on the use of AI in addressing major public health issues. Big Blue has agreed to a 10-year partnership with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The partners expect their initial areas of study to include using AI to improve the ability of EHRs and claims data to address public health concerns such as patient safety, precision medicine and health equity. They also expect to look at physician and patient user experiences and interactions with AI technologies.
While there’s always some mission creep in research, especially when a project involves big bucks, the participants in the just-announced collaborative seem focused on looking at hands-on AI benefits to healthcare, such the ability to improve care and refine AI interactions with users.
The announcement follows on AI research news from earlier this month, in which IBM Watson Health and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard announced that they were expanding an existing partnership to help clinicians improve their ability to predict a patient’s potential for developing serious cardiovascular disease.
IBM and the Broad Institute are leveraging population-based and hospital-based biobank data, genomic information and EHRs to improve the predictive power of genetic risk scoring. To meet project goals, the partners are working to develop new capabilities, including the ability to integrate multiple types of health data for modeling, transfer and apply models on patients from different health systems and share insights and analysis in a meaningful and actionable manner.
Other healthcare AI-related research partnerships include a collaborative agreement between the Scripps Research Translational Institute and graphics processing unit-maker NVIDIA under which the two will stake out best practices, tools and infrastructure tailored to supporting the AI application development process.
Agreements like these mark the gradual entry of AI into the health IT mainstream, with some AI applications – such as the use of machine learning to spot emerging conditions among hospitalized patients – growing steadily more popular over the past year or two.
In fact, in the relatively near term, we may see the emergence of a new EHR infrastructure which integrates AI capabilities. At least one tech giant, Google, has filed a series of patents outlining a new AI-driven EHR model. Google’s next-gen EHR incorporates deep learning algorithms which sort and filter patient data, present the most relevant and urgent updates to physicians and predict future clinical events.