Health IT, Patient Engagement

IBM Watson Health to help ADA with diabetes research, education

IBM Watson Health and the ADA also will be running a challenge to spur the development of apps to support people living with or at risk for diabetes.

American Diabetes Association SVP of medical technology Dr. Jane Chiang and IBM Watson Health Chief Health Officer Dr. Kyu Rhee met Sunday at the ADA’s conference in New Orleans.

It’s another high-profile partnership for IBM Watson Health.

Sunday at the American Diabetes Association’s 76th annual Scientific Sessions meeting in New Orleans, IBM announced that it was teaming up with the ADA to apply cognitive computing to the association’s huge storehouse of clinical and research data. They also will be running a challenge to spur the development of apps to support people living with or at risk for diabetes.

The goal of the long-term collaboration is nothing short of transforming diabetes care, explained Dr. Jane Chiang, senior vice president of medical technology at the ADA. “This is a very big deal for us,” Chiang said.

“This tool is something that will help patients,” Chiang said of IBM’s Watson supercomputing platform. “It’s taking population health data and applying it to individuals.”

The Alexandria, Virginia-based ADA has 66 years worth of clinical content, including evidence-based clinical recommendations, and has been publishing care guidelines for clinicians and patients for more than a quarter century. “It’s really the top clinical research for all types of diabetes,” Chiang said.

Now, IBM Watson will help vet everything in the ADA library, in hopes of refining and disseminating recommendations for both treatment and prevention of diabetes. “Now we can get that information out to all people with diabetes and those who are at risk,” Chiang said.

“You need a team effort” to treat diabetes, particularly type 2, said IBM Watson Chief Health Officer Dr. Kyu Rhee. “This, to me, is an essential piece of that team.”

On the research side, the ADA will work with Watson Health to build a cloud-based data and insights service for researchers. IBM’s data scientists will train Watson to understand diabetes data, in hopes of identifying potential risk factors and developing new medical and lifestyle strategies, including potential therapies.

The contest seeks to get pertinent information out to consumers. That includes not only the estimated 29 million Americans living with various types of diabetes, but 415 million people worldwide. There are also countless people with prediabetes who could be helped, including 86 million in the U.S., according to the ADA.

Neither party gave many details about the challenge that will run later in the year; those will come “soon,” according to Rhee. But the goal is to kick-start innovation and close gaps in care. “It’s putting the talent of the developer to work,” Rhee said.

Rhee noted that in addition to patients, there typically are three stakeholder groups in diabetes care and prevention: providers, payers and researchers. “This challenge also requires entrepreneurs,” he said.

Photo: A.J. Sisco for IBM