PFCD Hill Roundtable Welcomed Rep. Karen Bass, Explored IBM Watson Technology as Health Care Innovation

May 2, 2012

Last Friday, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) hosted “IBM Watson: Learning Machines Advancing Health Care Innovations”, as the first in our four-part 2012 “Partnerships in Health” series in conjunction with WellPoint. Held at the Rayburn House Office Building, the Capitol Hill roundtable highlighted WellPoint’s unique collaboration with IBM using IBM Watson technology to support clinical decision-making. We were honored to have Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA) offer opening remarks prior to the roundtable discussion and interactive audience Q&A featuring PFCD Chairman Kenneth Thorpe; David Kerr, Director, Corporate Strategy, IBM; and Elizabeth Bigham, Vice President, Health IT Strategy, WellPoint.

The discussion focused on analyzing how modern technology, such as that from IBM Watson, is improving health care decision-making, especially in the diagnosis and treatment of complex medical conditions such as cancer and other chronic diseases.

David Kerr provided background as to how the IBM Watson and WellPoint collaboration came about, citing that IBM was tasked with determining the commercial areas where the IBM Watson technology could be applied effectively. Kerr stated that health care proved to be a great fit as Watson can analyze mass amounts of in-depth data – including studies, news, patient records, conditions, etc. – over a broad area.  This is promising because with the rapid pace of medical innovation and growing volume of clinical research – there are 1,700 new academic articles published every day, according to Elizabeth Bigham – it’s increasingly challenging for doctors to keep up with these advances and conduct the day-to-day aspects of their clinical work.

Recalling how paper health records were still the norm when she first started working in health care, Congresswoman Bass reiterated that “health IT can revolutionize health care” and the way we treat patients. This is especially important when you consider that millions of Americans – nearly half – suffer from at least one debilitating chronic disease, but most chronic diseases are largely preventable and highly manageable.  

The roundtable discussion brought together an array of PFCD members, key Hill staff, media and a wide range of public and private sector organizations. The Partnerships in Health series between PFCD and WellPoint will announce future event dates and topics soon; please check our website for updates.