IBM will be establishing a Watson Health Cloud to dramatically advance effectiveness and quality in personal health care, working with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to get the HIPAA-enabled system up and running.

This move emphasizes a future for health that is focused on the individual, relying on the popularity of personal fitness trackers, implantables, connected medical devices and other sensors for collecting real-time information which has been estimated to amount to over a million gigabytes of data for the average person. But while all this data can overwhelm health care providers as well as patients, IBM saw an opportunity to transform how health is managed.

"Only IBM has the advanced cognitive capabilities of Watson and can pull together the vast ecosystem of partners, researchers and practitioners needed to drive change [and] provide the open, secure and scalable platform needed to make it all possible," said John E. Kelly III, solutions portfolio and research senior vice president for IBM.

The company's relationship with Apple, J&J and Medtronic in developing Watson Health Cloud is non-exclusive but is instead founded on collaborating to further health-based offerings taking advantage of information gathered from personal medical, fitness and health devices.

Apple, for instance, is expanding the partnership to provide secure cloud platform services and analytics for ResearchKit and HealthKit, supporting health data collected from iOS apps. J&J, on the other hand, will be working with IBM to develop intelligent coaching systems focused on providing pre and postoperative care to patients, while Medtronic will be leveraging Watson Health Cloud insights to offer diabetics with care management solutions that have been highly personalized.

Aside from teaming up with Apple, J&J and Medtronic, IBM also acquired Explorys and Phytel to further its plans for Watson Health Cloud. Based in Cleveland, Explorys has a secure cloud-computing platform used by 26 major health care systems, integrating information from 50 million patients, while Dallas-based Phytel provides health care providers with cloud-based services that meet new health care requirements and models for reimbursement.

IBM will also be opening a headquarters in the Boston area for its Watson Health Cloud unit and expanding operations in New York City, dedicating at least 2,000 medical practitioners, consultants, researchers and developers to the effort.

With already over 1,300 patents in medical devices, life sciences and health care, IBM is no stranger to the industry. It was responsible for Blue Gene, the first supercomputer capable of modeling protein-folding successfully, and the excimer laser which is used in LASIK surgery.

Photo: IBM | Flickr

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