IBM is launching a new health unit designed to derive value from the data created by fitness apps. Watson Health is aiming to produce a “secure, cloud-based data sharing hub”. The service may be able to diagnose medical conditions and create health alerts. This information could be sent to doctors, carers and insurers after users have provided permission.
The computing giant has teamed up with Apple in order to launch “new employee health and wellness management solutions”. To achieve its targets, IBM has purchased two companies, Explorys and Phytel. The former has one of the world’s biggest healthcare databases, whilst the latter uses digital medical record systems to automate communications and reduce the rate of hospital readmissions. IBM hopes to offer “individualized insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people’s health”.
However, there have been privacy concerns. Some apps used to diagnose cancer and other conditions have been criticized by the Federal Trade Commission. Legal experts say companies must give their employees the chance to opt out without facing disciplinary action. Many insurers have also expressed an interest in monitoring people’s health and are planning to reward people for adopting healthier lifestyles.