AMA, IBM's Watson, and Others Partner to Pursue Interoperability

Jack Murtha
OCTOBER 16, 2017
american medical association,watson,ibm,ihmi,hca news

Teaming up with at least 10 healthcare and tech groups, including IBM and its powerhouse Watson, the American Medical Association hopes to usher in an age of better care by building a common data model, the organization announced today.

The Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI) centers on a platform that’s slated to unite companies across the field as they “pioneer” a data framework for patient information, homing in on predictive analytics to achieve better outcomes, according to the AMA. In some ways, the push is an answer to the many calls to transform the collection, sharing, and use of data in healthcare.

“We spend more than $3 trillion a year on healthcare in America and generate more health data than ever before,” AMA CEO James Madara, MD, said in a statement. “Yet some of the most meaningful data—data to unlock potential improvements in patient outcomes—is fragmented, inaccessible, or incomplete.”

Any healthcare or tech stakeholder may participate in the initiative, according to the AMA. So far, the collaboration counts among its members IBM, Cerner, Intermountain Healthcare, the American Heart Association, the American Medical Informatics Association, and others. Interested parties may learn more here.

As these organizations use IHMI and offer feedback, its data model will evolve, according to the AMA. Over time, the move will help healthcare to “collect, organize, exchange, and analyze critical data elements,” arming providers with information that may lead them to alter how they care for a patient, all in the pursuit of better outcomes, according to the group.

“This important and novel initiative aligns with our mission to help healthcare providers make essential connections and gain confidence in the decisions they make,” William Kassler, MD, deputy chief health officer of IBM Watson Health, said. “Participation in this collaborative supports our goal to help providers improve patient outcomes and experience, reduce cost, and enhance physician and care team satisfaction.”

Along the way, the project is poised to spur innovations in interoperability, data structures, and the “overload of point-and-click tasks” that sour physicians and other providers, the AMA noted.

As it comes into shape, IMHI will host clinical and issue-based communities around costly, challenging areas, to pinpoint where improvements can take place. The 1st target? Chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. The AMA chose that topic due to the “high economic and societal burden” of these issues.

Participants will then take part in a clinical validation process designed to identify and institute the appropriate frameworks. They must also land on a model to encode information in the IHMI, enabling configurations and distributable reference value sets, according to the AMA.
In 2018, IHMI will expand to include other communities, depending on the market.

At its heart, the venture aims to build a patient-centric model that drives advances in technologies and processes with the needs and desires of healthcare providers in mind, according to the AMA.

“Patients deserve—and the marketplace should expect—physician input on the real-world value and feasibility of products and health technologies,” Laurie McGraw, AMA’s senior vice president of health solutions. She added that her organization’s “proven track record as a trusted, neutral convener” makes it a good bet to find success in these critical areas.

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