Health Information Exchange Featured Article

October 26, 2011

IBM Enters Field of Healthcare 'Big Data' with Jeopardy's Watson's Brain

Healthcare reform is driving the collection of more and more data which need to be stored and managed and kept safe and secure. Would you believe about \ 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day from smart sensors embedded in bridges and tunnels to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook? So who else to take on “Big Data” but IBM?

According to a story by Paul McDougall at, who quoted these statistics, IBM introduced a network analytics appliance for communications service providers based on technology it gained through its $1.7 billion buyout of Netezza and its $4.9 billion acquisition of Cognos at its Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas this week. And for healthcare providers? A content analytics tool that uses artificial intelligence algorithms from the Jeopardy-playing supercomputer Watson, McDougal writes.

Companies worldwide are looking at analytics solutions to better understand their business performance and customer satisfaction. Many customers are using network analytics appliances to “take advantage of network data which provides a true measure of what customers are experiencing,” the Web site reports. Quite a few are choosing the network analytics appliance route as a “rapid-deployment, data integration environment that provides the scalability required to handle variations of network data for computer services providers of all sizes,” according to the site.

"Organizations of all sizes are struggling to keep pace with the rate and pace of big data and use it in a meaningful way to improve products, services, and customer experience," McDougal quoted IBM as saying in his story.

McDougal reports that, over the past five years, the company has spent about $14 billion buying up data management and business intelligence specialists. In addition to Netezza and Cognos, IBM has also acquired Platform Computing, i2, and Algorithmics.

IBM on Tuesday announced software that uses Watson servers’ artificial intelligence routines to help healthcare providers analyze patient data to develop better courses of treatment and improve patient outcomes, according to McDougal.

The software, the IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare package, takes raw data, such as rates of disease outbreaks in a given area or success rates for particular therapies, and then “transforms it into predictive information that clinicians can apply in practice,” McDougal writes.

"For example, by predicting readmission candidates, we can reduce costly and preventable readmissions, decrease mortality rates, and ultimately improve the quality of life for our patients," McDougal quotes Charles Barnett, president and CEO at Seton Healthcare Family. Seton recently piloted the software in its facilities in central Texas, as saying in his story.

IBM isn’t done with this area of the business. It plans to roll out more analytics and business intelligence tools for industries that face Big Data challenges.

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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