At HIMSS20, IBM says security, seamless data exchange, AI are key trends

The general manager of IBM Watson Health talks digital transformation, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, blockchain, quantum computing and more.
By Bill Siwicki
11:22 AM
For HIMSS20, IBM says security, seamless data exchange, AI are key trends

Update: HIMSS20 has been canceled due to the coronavirus. Read more here.

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve from fee-for-service to value-based payment models, there is an increasing focus on better quality, outcomes and experience – all with significantly lower costs. Healthcare and technology leaders are working together to achieve these goals through digital transformation.

This digital transformation will blanket the HIMSS20 Global Conference next month, where IT giant IBM and its Watson Health will have a massive presence. Healthcare IT News interviewed Paul Roma, general manager of IBM Watson Health, to see what he and the company see as the key trends impacting this digital transformation will be at HIMSS20 and beyond.

Security, privacy and trust are paramount

Data security is fundamental to digital transformation, Roma asserted.

“Health data is incredibly valuable and must be shielded from a variety of threats – including cyberattacks, corruption, misuse, loss of integrity and others,” he said. “Cloud computing architecture offers a secure environment for data and analytics applications, and security and privacy are especially important as today’s healthcare organizations are using data from multiple sources.”

Security and privacy are vital for all organizations, especially where protected health and personal information is involved. It is imperative that those building advanced technologies are transparent about how the technologies are built, Roma said.

"Though the timeline is uncertain, blockchain will play an important role and allow for greater interoperability between systems."

Paul Roma, IBM Watson Health

“Take the Internet of Things, for example,” he explained. “The declining cost of sensors and the growth of secure, cloud-based platforms could make a profound impact on the healthcare industry. As more physicians monitor their patients’ health outside the office, with patient permission, the care team has access to greater insights about the factors and behaviors that may be affecting health outcomes for those individuals.”

But this system requires a secure, integrated approach that can enable multiple micro-services and devices to work from a single analytics platform, he added.

Seamless health data exchange and integration

Once healthcare organizations are confident that their infrastructure is secure, they look to derive more value from data and analytics, Roma contended.

“With medical data expected to double every 73 days and U.S. healthcare spending expected to reach 19.4% GDP by 2027, it becomes a challenge for healthcare organizations to effectively use this wealth of information to benefit the populations they serve,” he stated.

Sonoma County’s approach to digital transformation is a powerful example of how integrated data can help improve lives, he noted.

“Officials recognized that they needed better coordination across nine departments that provide social services, judicial interventions and behavioral health support,” he explained. “With integrated data and analytics, Sonoma County teams have a more complete picture of the individuals they serve, enabling more personalized, holistic support. Sonoma County also used these capabilities to respond after devastating wildfires swept the area. The integrated data and analytics platform offered insights into 90,000 client profiles to help deliver services to people in crisis and afterwards.”

Health data exchange likely will be further revolutionized by emerging technologies, he added.

“Though the timeline is uncertain, blockchain will play an important role and allow for greater interoperability between systems,” he said. “Blockchain technology enables more transparency as data moves from individual, siloed ownership to a jointly accessible record for permissioned stakeholders. This shareable record can become the single source of truth for patient information, regardless of provider, health plan or location.”

Advanced analytics and AI

The human mind is not capable of processing the ever-expanding amounts of real-time data available to healthcare provider organizations today. To solve the toughest healthcare challenges, organizations need to combine the strengths of the human mind – creativity, abstraction, morality – with advanced technologies, Roma said. AI can help recognize patterns in vast amounts of data to help improve workflows, reduce burnout, decrease costs and personalize experiences, he contended.

“AI has already been applied to use-cases in healthcare such as identifying patterns in patient cohorts to build progression models of Huntington’s disease, and analyzing clinical genome sequence analysis to apply in oncology clinical practice,” Roma explained. “We see a growing number of commercial offerings in this space, including AI application marketplaces, requiring careful review to help ensure they meet the quality, security and compliance standards of healthcare.”

As quantum computing technology continues to advance, IBM sees new opportunities for AI to identify patterns in systems so complex that there just has not been enough classical computer resource in the world to model them, he added.

“Once the data is secure, integrated and analyzed, the last mile is getting those insights to the point of decision,” he said. “Advanced analytics and AI can offer intelligent assistance at those decision points that are happening in innumerable ways across the healthcare continuum.”

For example, a virtual assistant can help a mother choose the right benefits for her family during her employer’s open enrollment period, he said. Or a tool can help program integrity analysts find the right policies to fight fraud, waste and abuse, he added. Or a summary of patient data, pulled from extensive records and put into context of the visit, can help clinicians make more informed care decisions, he concluded.

IBM will be at HIMSS20 in March in Booths 3579, 400-07, 400-90 and MP221.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.