Category Archives: health

IBM, Apple combine IoT forces for sleep health study

electronic medical health recordIBM’s Watson Cloud is to be the foundation for research by the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) into how human sleeping habits affect our health. IBM and ASAA have also jointly created a new SleepHealth app to encourage patients to contribute to the cloud based SleepHealth Mobile Study.

The SleepHealth study uses Apple’s Internet of Things technology and open source ResearchKit, which simplifies tasks and survey compilation and feeds its data into the SleepHealth app. SleepHealth is the first ResearchKit study to run on the Watson Health Cloud.

Though sleep is critical for physical and metal health it remains one of the most overlooked of the basic human needs and one in four Americans experience sleep problems. Chronic insomnia affects 10% of Americans and 25 million suffer from types of obstructive sleep apnoea such as disrupted sleep, snoring and uneven breathing, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This in turn can create heart disease, hypertension, obesity, cancer, depression and fatal accidents.

Researchers and physicians will use Watson to host its surveys and study exercises and interrogate the data to uncover patterns. The Watson Cloud makes crowd-sourcing data possible and creates a system of patient-led research and data-driven discovery, according ASAAs chief science officer Carl Stepnowsky. The SleepHealth app could build the world’s largest longitudinal study to collect data on both healthy and unhealthy sleepers, said Stepnowsky.

The Watson Health Cloud has opened up a diversity of data sources such as medical literature, treatment guidelines, claims data and clinical data, according to Kyu Rhee, chief health officer for Watson Health. Researchers can also opt to apply Watson Analytics for deeper insights from the data. “One of our goals at IBM Watson Health is to eliminate silos that hinder collaboration between researchers, patients and clinicians,” said Rhee.

The study also makes use of IoT technology. The SleepHealth app makes use of multiple Apple Watch sensors, such as the accelerometer, which detects movements, and the gyroscope, which determines orientation in space, to measure and record movements such as shifting positions during sleep. It also uses Apple Watch’s heart rate monitor to detect sleep. Some of the app’s features, such as the Personal Sleep Concierge and the Nap Tracker, were designed specifically to the Apple Watch as a way to improve sleep habits. SleepHealth will be the first ResearchKit app to use Apple’s new Night Shift feature that reduces light exposure before sleep.

IBM Watson Health buys Truven Health Analytics for $2.6B

Legs of Fit Couple Exercising on Treadmill DeviceIBM Watson Health has announced an agreement to acquire cloud based big data specialist Truven Health Analytics. The deal, valued at $2.6 billion, will give the IBM Watson Health portfolio an additional 8,500 clients and information on 215 million new patients, subject to the merger being concluded. Upon completion of due diligence, IBM will buy Truven from its current owner Veritas Capital.

Truven Health Analytics has a client list that includes US federal and state government agencies, employers, health plans, hospitals, clinicians and life sciences companies. The 215 million records of patient lives from Truven will be added to data from previous IBM Watson Health acquisitions of big data companies. These include 50 million patient case histories that came with its acquisition of cloud based health care intelligence company Explorys and 45 million records owned by population health analyser Phytel. IBM Watson Health has also bought medical imaging expert Merge Healthcare. In total, IBM Watson Health now has 310 million records of ‘patient lives’ which, IBM claims, gives it a health cloud housing ‘one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections of health-related data’.

In September BCN reported how two new cloud services, IBM Watson Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance and IBM Watson Care Manager had been created to unblock the big data bottlenecks in clinical research. The first service helps biomedical companies bring their inventions to market more efficiently, while the Care Manager system gives medical professionals a wider perspective on the factors they need to consider for personalised patient engagement programmes.

According to IBM it has now invested over $4 billion on buying health data and systems and will have 5,000 staff in its Watson Health division, including clinicians, epidemiologists, statisticians, healthcare administrators, policy experts and consultants.

Truven’s cloud-based technology, systems and health claims data, currently housed in offices and data centers across facilities in Michigan, Denver, Chicago, Carolina and India, are to be integrated with the Watson Health Cloud.

IBM has invited partners to build text, speech and image recognition capacity into their software and systems and 100 ecosystem partners have launched their own Watson-based apps. IBM opened a San Francisco office for its Watson developer cloud in September 2015 and is also building a new Watson data centre there, which is due to open in early 2016.

Digital health startup Babylon gets £24m to develop medical AI

Babylon Simulator Screen ShotUK-based digital health service Babylon Health has raised $25m in a Series A funding round led by Swedish investment group AB Kinnevik. The venture capital advance is a record amount for a European cloud based health start up.

Babylon will use the cash to expand beyond its current online patient base of 250,000 UK users to deliver preventative medicine and sick care across EMEA. Since its launch in February 2015, the service has expanded to Ireland and there are plans for an East African service for 2016. Businesses such as Citigroup, Sky and MasterCard offer it to their staff as an employee benefit and it’s used by health insurance providers Mercer, Bupa and Aviva. It claims it’s at an early stage of partnering with the NHS to make its services available to the broader UK population.

The platform uses machine learning to analyse genetics, environment, behaviour, biology and key body functions. It uses this information as a form of preventative medicine, encouraging users to stay healthy through timely personalised health advice. It now plans an additional service which aims to help monitor and manage course completion when medicine is prescribed and to assesses the effectiveness of the treatment. Babylon has demonstrated a working prototype of this additional app, which is due for launch in 2016.

Partners in the venture include investment company BXR Group, Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and Hoxton Ventures, the fund established to bridge European companies to Silicon Valley. According to the FT.Com Babylon is valued at £100m.

In January another UK based online health start up, PushDoctor, announced it had raised $8.2million round of Series A financing from Oxford Capital, Draper Esprit and Partech Ventures.

Red Hat helps Medlab share supercomputer in the cloud

redhat office logoA cloud of bioinformatics intelligence has been harmonised by Red Hat to create ‘virtual supercomputers’ that can be shared by the eMedlab collective of research institutes.

The upshot is that researchers at institutes such as the Wellcome Trust Sanger, UCL and King’s College London can carry out much more powerful data analysis when researching cancers, cardio-vascular conditions and rare diseases.

Since 2014 hundreds of researchers across the eMedlab have been able to use a high performance computer (HPC) with 6,000 cores of processing power and 6 Petabytes of storage from their own locations. However, the cloud environment now collectively created by technology partners Red Hat, Lenovo, IBM and Mellanox, along with supercomputing integrator OCF, means none of the users have to shift their data to the computer. Each of the seven institutes can configure their share of the HPC according to their needs, by self-selecting the memory, processors and storage they’ll need.

The new HPC cloud environment uses a Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack platform with Lenovo Flex hardware to create virtual HPC clusters bespoke to each individual researchers’ requirements. The system was designed and configured by OCF, working with partners Red Hat, Lenovo, Mellanox and eMedlab’s research technologists.

With the HPC hosted at a shared data centre for education and research, the cloud configuration has made it possible to run a variety of research projects concurrently. The facility, aimed solely at the biomedical research sector, changes the way data sets are shared between leading scientific institutions internationally.

The eMedLab partnership was formed in 2014 with funding from the Medical Research Council. Original members University College London, Queen Mary University of London, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Francis Crick Institute, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute have been joined recently by King’s College London.

“Bioinformatics is a very, data-intensive discipline,” says Jacky Pallas, Director of Research Platforms at University College London. “We study a lot of de-identified, anonymous human data. It’s not practical for scientists to replicate the same datasets across their own, separate physical HPC resources, so we’re creating a single store for up to 6 Petabytes of data and a shared HPC environment within which researchers can build their own virtual clusters to support their work.”

In other news Red Hat has announced a new upgrade of CloudForms with better hybrid cloud management through more support for Microsoft Azure Support, advanced container management and improvements to its self-service features.

IBM Watson health launches to new cloud services to speed research

healthcare ITIBM has launched two new cloud services and a range of initiatives which aim to eliminate the worst bottlenecks of clinical research in the health sector.

The IBM Watson Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance is designed to help biomedical companies bring their inventions to market more efficiently. This system aims to speed up the process of meeting the pharmaceutical industry compliance regulations govern the hosting and access of data.

IBM Watson Care Manager is a population health system which aims to amalgamate features from IBM’s own Watson Health with Apple’s HealthKit and ResearchKit, which allows researchers to conduct studies using their iPhone. The new Care Manager system could allow medical professionals’ to consider a broad ranger of factors when working out a personalized patient engagement program.

IBM also announced partnerships with Boston Children’s Hospital, Columbia University, Icon, Sage Bionetworks and Teva Pharmaceuticals. It unveiled how the partners are using Watson’s cloud application to improve a number of health sector business processes, including drug discovery and development, personalized medicine, chronic disease management, pediatrics and digital health.

CVS Health, Medtronic, Yale University, Teva and Sage also announced the Watson Health Cloud is their organizations’ preferred development platform.

Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) has been named Watson Health’s foundational pediatrics partner, with IBM integrating its health cloud systems with the hospital’s OPENPediatrics initiative for sharing pediatric expertise. IBM and BCH will jointly develop commercial systems for personalized medicine, heart health and critical care. Another objective is to use Watson’s image analytics to help clinicians improve diagnoses for children with heart conditions. A third project involves using streaming analytics on data from patients on ventilation systems, in order to pre-empt patient decline.

Columbia University Medical Center is to test IBM Watson’s capacity to translate DNA insights into personalized treatment options for cancer patients. Meanwhile, clinical research organization Icon is to use Watson for clinical trial matching, which aims to speed up the process of screening the subjects of clinical trials. According to IBM 80 per cent of clinical trials fail due to inadequate patient enrolment and only 2 per cent of patients are eligible for trials.

“The IBM Watson Health Cloud can help us break down barriers that hamper progress in research,” said Sage Bionetworks president Stephen H. Friend.

Salesforce says its Health Cloud is about building relationships, not records

Salesforce has unveiled a new cloud based system aimed at helping clinicians to build stronger relationships with patients. The launch comes in the same week that UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans to give patients in England access to their entire medical record by 2018, and to let them read and add to their GP record using their smartphone within a year.

Salesforce Health Cloud (SHC) is a cloud-based patient relationship manager that aims to give health service providers a more complete picture of each patient, by integrating data from electronic medical records, wearables and other sources, such as general practitioner and hospital notes.

The service was developed in the US, where recent legislation – such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – aims to put more emphasis on improving the patient experience. According to Salesforce, wearable technology has changed the way health services are administered and new cloud apps must cater for the new expectations of patients. The SHC is designed to meet the demands of a generation of digital natives that grew up with iPhones, Facebook and FitBits who expect to use technology to manage their care. According to Salesforce’s research, 71 per cent of  ‘millennials’ (those reaching adulthood around the year 2000) want their doctors to provide a mobile app to actively manage their health. Salesforce claims that 63 per cent of them want health data extracted from their wearables to be available to their doctors.

The Health Cloud was developed with input from a variety of US-based healthcare companies, including Centura Health, DJO Global, Radboud University Medical Center, Philips and the University of California and San Francisco. Development partners included Accenture, Deloitte Digital, PwC, MuleSoft and Persistent Systems, who collectively integrated records and customised content.

Features include a Patient Caregiver Map, which can map household relationships, as well as all providers and specialists involved in a patient’s care. A ‘Today’ screen alerts caregivers to timely issues, such as missed appointments or the need to refill medications. The logic of the system is that fewer patients will fall through the cracks in any health service, an issue that Salesforce Chatter – an internal social networking tool – aims to combat through a review process for internal health service conversations.

“The era of precision healthcare is upon us,” said Joshua Newman, Chief Medical Officer for Salesforce Healthcare and Life Sciences.

Virgin Active urges cloud players to embrace ‘the database of you’

CWF VirginIn his keynote address at Cloud World Forum 2015, the CIO of fitness chain Virgin Active – Andy Caddy – urged cloud and big data companies to find better uses for the mountains of data people are accumulating about themselves.

Coining the term “the database of you”, Caddy said that in his capacity as the CIO of a health and fitness company with 1.4 million members in 270 clubs he is acutely aware of the desire for gym-goers to track their every waking movement and a bunch of other biometric data, such as heartrate, besides.

Caddy also thinks wearables such as fitness bands are at an early stage and, in reference to the recent IPO of fitness band company Fitbit, indicated he thought wearables were currently near the most hyped phase of the Gartner Hype Cycle. He reckons it will be a few years yet before the ‘winning design’ emerges, such as happened with smartphones and the touchscreen form factor that has changed little for the past eight years.

One result of all this hype, however, is that people are constantly generating data about themselves – around 31 datapoints per year for Virgin Active members. Caddy’s concern is they they’re currently not able to do much with it, beyond gloating about how much exercise they’ve done on social media.

When Caddy surveyed members, as part of his planning for a ‘connected club’ initiative, about what they want technology in a gym context to do for them they said they want it to be device agnostic, always on and provide useful feedback and advice, as opposed to raw data. Caddy concluded with a call to the tech industry to step up to the plate and give his members what they’re looking for. “We need someone to come in and do this stuff, because it’s just begging for it,” he said.