People with diabetes may need emergency care if their sugar levels dip too high or too low; those with heart disease must be rushed to the hospital should they have a cardiac event. Now CVS Pharmacy and IBM’s cognitive computing system Watson have teamed up to scour the medical records of people with chronic conditions and identify patients most likely to need emergency care—hopefully to prevent it.
Chronic conditions like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are the leading cause of death in the United States, and cost $2.9 trillion to treat every year, according to an IBM press release. But long before patients need urgent care, there are red flags that pop up that, if addressed, would prevent the need for emergency treatment. But it’s nearly impossible for one physician to look at the medical health records, adherence to prescriptions, environmental factors, and fitness devices in order to determine a customized action plan for each of her patients. In most cases, doctors don’t even have access to some of this information.
That’s where Watson comes in. CVS holds prescription information for 70 million members, which the company will let Watson access. When those patients go to see a doctor at one of CVS’s 1,000 walk-in clinics nationwide, Watson will have compiled all the available information so that the physician can make the best possible recommendation for preventative interventions.
The partnership also brings Watson’s Health Cloud into the mix, which uses the huge amount of personal health data constantly added to its database to help doctors and insurers gain new insights into patients’ health conditions. That means that the system could get tipped off about previously unknown behaviors shared by patients at the highest risk of a medical emergency, so they can intervene before it happens.
Though Watson has been increasingly involved in health initiatives in recent years, this partnership with CVS is its largest push into the mass market to date.