Does Apple’s Partnership with IBM Give Them Access to Watson for Healthcare Apps?

Originally posted on MedCity News


The Apple-IBM partnership deal raises some interesting questions for the healthcare sector, as mobihealthnews pointed out. This is what interests me: What will it mean for healthcare applications of Watson’s computer brain and how is Apple likely to leverage Watson for its  own designs on healthcare?

Look at how health IT companies and hospitals have made use of Watson’s machine learning capabilities. IBM has encouraged technology companies, including health IT businesses, to devise ways to make use of Watson’s machine learning abilities in their apps. Welltok is working with Watson to expand its CaféWell unit of patient engagement apps to include a concierge channel for accountable care organizations and insurance brokers, among other partners.

Welltok CEO Jeffrey Margolis told MedCity News earlier this year that leveraging Watson’s technology has meant giving users more accurate information about how to meet their health and wellness goals. Through Watson, an app can use personal information, location and time to make more practical recommendations. It can also use that additional context to develop more relevant options, a bit like a personalized coach. It could help users manage their priorities.

Plenty of hospitals have seen opportunities to use Watson’s big data analytics brain power for applications such as figuring out targeted approaches to treating glioblastomas and cancer treatment options to reducing readmissions.

Apple’s iPad and iPhone seem to be benefiting the most from the Bring Your Own Device trend, according to a Manhattan Research survey last year referenced in mobihealthnews’ article. The continued rise in physicians’ use of iPads would provide a lot of interesting opportunities for hospitals to use Watson’s technology on mobile devices at the point of care.

Apple’s Health Kit also presents some interesting opportunities to use Watson’s technology. Apple could harness Watson’s machine learning to provide useful insights gathered from sensors that integrate with HealthKit. If patients choose to share that information with their physicians, Watson could help medical professionals use that information to see whether their patients are conforming to care plans.