Improving healthcare is an ongoing project, particularly here in Rochester.
Here are a couple locally linked tidbits I came across this week about efforts that are using technology to attack this issue.
First, everyone remembers IBM's Jeopardy-playing supercomputer Watson. Much of its development occured here in Rochester. I remember the UMR hosting a big viewing session for local business leaders and Mayo Clinic execs, so everyone could watch the celebrity computer answer Alex Trebec.
IBM Research unveiled two new Watson-related cognitive technologies that are
expected to help physicians make more informed and accurate decisions
faster and to cull new insights from electronic medical records (EMR).
The projects known as "WatsonPaths" and "Watson EMR Assistant" are the
result of a year-long research collaboration with fa culty, physicians
and students at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case
Western Reserve University. Both are key projects that will create
technologies that can be leveraged by Watson to advance the technology
in the domain of medicine.
• WatsonPaths explores a complex scenario and draws conclusions much
like people do in real life. When presented with a medical case,
WatsonPaths extracts statements based on the knowledge it has learned as
a result of being trained by medical doctors and from medical
WatsonPaths can use Watson's question-answering abilities to examine
the scenario from many angles. The system w
orks its way through chains
of evidence -- pulling from reference materials, clinical guidelines and
medical journals in real-time -- and draws inferences to support or
refute a set of hypotheses. This ability to map medical evidence allows
medical professionals to consider new factors that may help them to
create additional differential diagnosis and treatment options.
Of course, Mayo Clinic's involved in many projects to improve medical treatments and healthcare in general.
One such project is the "strategic research alliance" Mayo Clinic formed in January with OptumHealth, a
technology and consulting division of the Minnetonka, Minn.-based
health insurer UnitedHealth Group.
Together they launched Optum Labs in Cambridge, Mass. Optum Labs CEO Paul Bleicher spoke about what they are doing at a conference this week.
Optum Labs will use claims and clinical data to answer pressing health
questions. It will use a database that includes 149 million patient
records from UNH, electronic medical records covering 5 million lives
from Mayo Clinic, and 12 million electronic medical records from Humedica.
Speaking at the recent StrataRx conference in Boston, Optum Labs CEO
Paul Bleicher, M.D., Ph.D., said Cambridge, Mass.-based Optum will use
advanced analytics and data visualization techniques to support research
and innovation projects that will improve patient care and lower cost.
The new partnership of Mayo Clinic and OptumHealth also represents a
source of new opportunities for healthcare entrepreneurs, said Bleicher,
who expects new health IT companies to emerge from this effort. "That
is one of the goals," Bleicher said. "We want to develop technologies
and innovations that could be spun off into companies, in collaboration
with venture capitalists."
He said Optum Labs is actively seeking other partners and "accepting
applications from anybody doing research who is willing to do so with
complete transparency, in a non-commercial fashion." The mission is
"very public, publication research that will advance the cause of
healthcare and anyone who participates." Influencing healthcare
policymakers is also one of the goals, he said.
Another priority of Optum Labs is enlisting "new partners who will
bring additional data of high value," Bleicher said. "We want other
payers - and everybody - to be in the tent, because if all of the data
is in one place, there is opportunity to dive deep into it." It will
also be important that "the findings don't stay stuck in 'silos' but are
distributed widely, so they become valuable for more than just a few
The cost of some of the projects Optum Labs undertakes could be
shared by National Institutes of Health grants or by partnering with
life sciences or IT companies, Bleicher added.
Mark Hayward, administrator of Mayo Clinic's Center for the Science
of Health Care Delivery, said there will be "information technology that
will come out of our labs that will spin off new technologies and