IBM Watson Health to hire hundreds for new Boston-area HQ

April 14, 2015
Boston Business Journal

By: Jessica Bartlett

IBM will be locating its new health care analytics division in the Boston area, hiring hundreds of employees and partnering with some of the biggest names in health care to provide an umbrella analytical software able of capturing and analyzing all a person’s health information.

The company announced plans for IBM Watson Health on Monday, along with partnerships with AppleJohnson & Johnson and Medtronic to capture, analyze and report on a person’s health information.

“We’re very much involved and engaged in trying to leverage Watson and analytics to bring innovation into an important space like health and we’ve been doing it for decades,” said Kyu Rhee, the chief health officer for IBM, in an interview. “This highlights that commitment and the creation of the Watson health cloud and moves towards innovation in Boston.”

IBM Watson Health has also acquired Explorys, a cloud-based health care company in Ohio specializing in hospital analytics, and Phytel, a Texas-based health care software company that focuses on understanding and better planning health care of patients on a budget.

Both acquisitions will give IBM Watson access to thousands of patient data points as the company works on digesting, sorting and reporting on the data to uncover meaningful insights.

The company plans to bring 2,000 dedicated clinicians and researchers under the new business segment, which will include new hires and existing personnel that have been working on health initiatives with Watson prior to the announcement.

While some employees will be based in New York, the majority of the business will be located in the Boston area — although no location for its division headquarters has been announced.

The technology builds off of IBM’s super computer Watson, perhaps most famously known for winning Jeopardy against contestant Ken Jennings.

IBM is seeking to leverage that super computer to make health care more affordable, efficient, accessible and enjoyable.

Mainly, it will serve as a data-sharing platform — providing data for researchers, acting as a partnership platform to create better technology solutions around health care, and serving as an analytics tool to provide doctors and health care organizations with insight to be more efficient.

Already, three major firms have come on board to serve as partners in the project. Apple will allow IBM Watson access to data entered into Apple’s ResearchKit and HealthKit products, providing more data to the platform.

Meanwhile, Medtronic will develop a new generation of diabetes products that can use data, along with data from that person’s electronic health record and insurance claims, and cull through that database with analytics software. A patient's health data can be combined in a larger system that could open the door to further insights. The data is scrubbed of identifying information to comply regulatory, according to IBM.

Johnson & Johnson is also creating an intelligent coaching system that uses health analytics to suggest potential solutions to health problems.

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