How will hospitals tap Apple-IBM tech?

August 18, 2014 in Medical Technology

When Apple and IBM announced that they would partner to create a mobile platform, it caught the healthcare marketplace by surprise.

Dan Pelino, the general manager of IBM’s global public sector unit, reveals how the partnership came together, how Apple and IBM executives expect providers to use their technologies, when doctors might be able to query Watson via Siri, and other lesser-known-but-promising aspects of the deal.

Q: What was the catalyst? Some would say it should have happened long ago, others might resurrect that now-infamous picture of Steve Jobs gesticulating in front of an IBM sign …

A: A couple of things. First of all we came together to create value to benefit society – Apple with its engineers saying ‘we can do more from the standpoint of integrating into the enterprise’ and IBM recognizing the importance of getting the right mobile devices into the hands of patients and leaders. It really was a natural fit, and that’s why it progressed so quickly. Regardless of what people thought in the past, it’s a new day. Our chairman is fond of saying how you get a chance to recreate a company, to move forward, and IBM has through the years been successful at transforming itself and the industry. We want to become more essential and continue to challenge ourselves to do that on behalf of our clients, and we found kindred spirits with Apple on this.

[See also: Watson + Siri: new mHealth power couple?.]

Q: How do you envision hospitals using the mobile-first platform to perform functions or tasks they otherwise could not?

A: When you look across the structure it typically starts with the enterprise service bus, then you get into the framework, and then decide which applications to run. So the ability to make that decision across the enterprise in a way that will allow for security and scale to your mobile devices gets at one of the most challenging problems systems face today: BYOD. Bring your own device. And given the fact that there’s HIPAA compliance and other regulatory requirements that need to be addressed, there are challenges of taking consumer-type devices, whether it be Fitbit or others, that have patient information available into the delivery system so it has value at the point of care. And that starts to unlock a tremendous amount of innovation.

Q: Siri and Watson. How far are we really from doctors being able to query Watson via Siri or otherwise and actually receive actionable information back for treatment regimens?

A: We’re piloting that with Memorial Sloan Kettering (and) MD Anderson and have other pilots underway. It is in the upper wide-right quadrant of complexity and value, and we believe that over time it will become part of normal practices followed by the majority of physicians and clinicians. It will also follow with a level of commitment to consistency on practice patterns and best practices and changing processes to be able to get better outcomes sooner.

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