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With 2 acquisitions, IBM builds out Watson Health

Phytel and Explorsys will be part of a “holistic platform”
By Bernie Monegain
10:34 AM
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IBM

IBM will be buying population health company Phytel and Cleveland Clinic spinoff Explorys, a cloud-base data analytics company. The technology giant announced the pending acquisitions at a late afternoon news conference at HIMSS15 on Monday.

Both Phytel and Explorys will become part of IBM's new Watson Health unit, also announced Monday. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In a field of many vendors offering population health services, research firm KLAS pegged Phytel No. 1 in a report it released last November, which noted that 100 percent of Phytel clients interviewed reported tangible benefits and a high number of linked clinics.

"Over the past year we have seen an exponential increase in interest surrounding population health management, especially as healthcare organizations work to make the transition to shared risk and pay-for-performance," Steve Schelhammer, CEO of Phytel, said at the time. "As providers continue to pursue the Triple Aim, we are excited that KLAS has recognized Phytel as the sole 'early leader' in this space."

[See also: KLAS gives Phytel top score for population health.]

Phytel software works with healthcare providers' EHR technology to reduce patient hospital readmissions, automating population health management and improving patient outreach and engagement.

"IBM is continuing a significant investment in supporting the needs of our healthcare clients by bringing together powerful cognitive computing with new insights into all the factors that influence a person's health," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson, in a statement  Monday. "The acquisition of Phytel furthers our mission of giving providers insights into patient health from data about patient behaviors and their engagement with care plans."

Explorys
Explorys has built one of the largest clinical data sets in the world, representing more than 50 million lives, IBM executives point out in a news release.

Twenty-six healthcare systems and clinically integrated networks use the Explorys platform to identify patterns in diseases, treatments and outcomes. Its network includes Cleveland Clinic, Trinity Health, St. Joseph Health System, Mercy Health, Adventist Health System and many others with patients across the country. Market intelligence firm IDC recently named Explorys global leader in the Healthcare Clinical and Financial Analysis categories.

"As healthcare providers, health plans and life sciences companies face a deluge of data, they need a secure, reliable and dynamic way to share that data for new insight to deliver quality, effective healthcare for the individual," said IBM's Rhodin. "To address this opportunity, IBM is building a holistic platform to enable the aggregation and discovery of health data to share it with those who can make a difference. With Explorys, IBM will accelerate the delivery of IBM Health Cloud and IBM Watson cognitive solutions to model and apply medical evidence and large scale analytics to data."

"Every encounter that a patient has across the continuum of care spins off a meaningful piece of data that can help tell the whole story about an individual's health to improve the quality and effectiveness of their care," said Stephen McHale, CEO and co-founder, Explorys, in a statement. "Information is changing the way care is delivered and paid for. The combination of Explorys technology with IBM's powerful Health Cloud and Watson cognitive capabilities will expand the reach of health insights so that Big Data can finally be used more easily to transform healthcare. This relationship will not only accelerate but enhance many of the projects underway with our provider organizations."

[See also: Big data 'not for the weak'.]

Growing Watson
In addition to announcing the two acquisitions, IBM officials also announced:

  • The establishment of IBM Watson Health, a new business unit that will be headquartered in the Boston area.
  • New partnerships with leading companies, including Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to help optimize consumer and medical devices for data collection, analysis and feedback.

[See also: VA taps IBM's Watson to help treat PTSD.]