When Apple and IBM announced that they would be partnering to create a mobile-first platform, it caught the healthcare marketplace by surprise.
So now that the dust has settled a bit, it’s time to take a look in more detail at what the companies have in mind.
mHealth News Executive Editor Tom Sullivan spoke with Dan Pelino, the general manager of IBM’s global public sector unit, about how the partnership came together, how they expect providers to use their technologies, when doctors might be able to query Watson via Siri, and other lesser-known-but-promising aspects of the deal.
Q: What was the catalyst? Some would say it should have happened long ago, others might resurrect that now-infamous picture of Steve Jobs gesticulating in front of an IBM sign …
A: A couple of things. First of all we came together to create value to benefit society — Apple with its engineers saying ‘we can do more from the standpoint of integrating into the enterprise’ and IBM recognizing the importance of getting the right mobile devices into the hands of patients and leaders. It really was a natural fit, and that’s why it progressed so quickly. Regardless of what people thought in the past, it’s a new day. Our chairman is fond of saying how you get a chance to recreate a company, to move forward, and IBM has through the years been successful at transforming itself and the industry. We want to become more essential and continue to challenge ourselves to do that on behalf of our clients, and we found kindred spirits with Apple on this.
Q: How do you envision hospitals using the mobile-first platform to perform functions or tasks they otherwise could not?
A: When you look across the structure it typically starts with the enterprise service bus, then you get into the framework, and then decide which applications to run. So the ability to make that decision across the enterprise in a way that will allow for security and scale to your mobile devices gets at one of the most challenging problems systems face today: BYOD. Bring your own device. And given the fact that there’s HIPAA compliance and other regulatory requirements that need to be addressed, there are challenges of taking consumer-type devices, whether it be Fitbit or others, that have patient information available into the delivery system so it has value at the point of care. And that starts to unlock a tremendous amount of innovation.
Q: Siri and Watson. How far are we really from doctors being able to query Watson via Siri or otherwise and actually receive actionable information back for treatment regimens?
A: We’re piloting that with Memorial Sloan Kettering (and) MD Anderson and have other pilots underway. It is in the upper wide-right quadrant of complexity and value, and we believe that over time it will become part of normal practices followed by the majority of physicians and clinicians. It will also follow with a level of commitment to consistency on practice patterns and best practices and changing processes to be able to get better outcomes sooner.
The idea that ‘you have to know before you can solve’ becomes critical. And the technology is now available, although it’s still with the early adopters, to allow us to know. Once we get into knowing what the condition is, or the disease, we can start building the best practice patterns, the best way to diagnose, to treat — and then as you have that information, to be able to access it at the point of care, such as how to get a patient into the appropriate clinical trial that will have the best outcome. Or to look at whether there’s something out there that can help a patient with a particular issue. In the past that’s been a little bit of trial and error, certainly under the watchful eye of a physician trained in that specific disease or condition, but the potential to put someone in the best clinical trial gives that clinician or physician the opportunity to get that patient well.
Q: Or to literally save someone’s life …
A: It could absolutely save lives. It could extend them or improve a patient’s quality of life. You can change the landscape of care by being able to find and implement best practices.
Continue to next page for more on sequencing DNA, forthcoming mHealth apps, and meetings between Apple and IBM engineers ...