IBM Watson picked by American Heart Association to help tackle heart disease

New offering on Welltok platform aimed at some of largest employers, including IBM.
By Bernie Monegain
09:54 AM
IBM Watson will be trained on evidence-based heart health goals and measures in order to recommend specific ways employers can create heart healthy environments.

The American Heart Association is working with IBM Watson and Welltok to create workplace health technology aimed at boosting heart health.

The new offering taps the cognitive computing power of IBM and the heart association's science-based metrics and health assessments, delivered on Welltok's health optimization platform.

It will be the first application of Watson technology to address cardiovascular disease, officials said.

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More than 85 million Americans are affected by heart disease, according to the AHA. Globally, heart disease accounts for 1 in 3 deaths and more than $312 billion in annual health spending and lost productivity, according to AHA statistics.

The program will help assess both the employer's workplace health environment, as well as employee health based on AHA metrics. Central to the work is a new Workplace Health Achievement Index, which AHA also launched Monday.

The index measures how successfully companies have integrated a culture of health within the workplace. It uses best practices to measure and rank corporate health initiatives, measuring companies.

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AHA's CEO Roundtable, composed of the largest U.S. employers, developed and tested the measures. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is a member of the roundtable.

Big Blue will integrate the new tool into the company's employee wellness strategy. To create the new offering, IBM will tap Watson's natural language processing, question-and-answer-capability and similarity analytics.

Also, Watson will be trained on evidence-based heart health goals and measures in order to recommend specific ways employers can create heart healthy environments and engage with their employees.

The technology will analyze data from the Index to inform employers about how they can best support employee health, such as how best to design, tailor and deliver health benefits and health promotion programs.

Using Welltok's platform online or via mobile, an individual employee could opt to complete AHA's My Life Check questionnaire, which measures "Life's Simple 7" – key cardiovascular health indicators: not smoking, eating healthy, being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and reducing blood sugar.

Welltok leverages consumer insights derived from questionnaires and data collected via wearable fitness trackers, wireless-enabled scales and blood pressure cuffs to provide personalized recommendations.

Data from the Workplace Health Achievement Index and the application for Life's Simple 7 will be de-identified and stored in the Watson Health Cloud.

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A new study by AHA and Nielsen found that employees who feel encouraged by senior leadership to participate in workplace health programs are approximately twice as likely to eat healthy, and 69 percent report that workplace health initiatives have a strong impact on job satisfaction.

AHA research has shown that attaining a high Life's Simple 7 score can help reduce risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and many other health problems. People who reach ideal health for all seven metrics by age 50 may have significantly lower lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke.

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