Oct 13 2017

IBM Deploys AI and Analytics to Enhance Public Health

With its Watson supercomputer, IBM is forming partnerships throughout the public health and safety ecosystem to help streamline care.

Some call centers around the country aren’t quite hitting their mark when it comes to being responsive and effective for citizens. By modernizing legacy systems with the aim to ward off cyberthreats and incorporate media-rich technologies, however, many dispatch centers are bringing their systems into the 21st century.

Now, with IBM technology, artificial intelligence is likely to also play a role in bringing emergency call systems up to speed.

IBM Partners with APCO to Improve 911 Call Evaluation

Through a mix of machine learning and AI, public safety directors could soon get a better look into the thousands of 911 calls that pass through dispatch centers in a day.

An estimated 240 million calls are made to 911 in the U.S. each year, more than 657,000 calls a day, and only a small subset must be evaluated for quality assurance. Through a new partnership between IBM and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, Watson Speech to Text and Analytics programs will come together with APCO software to provide directors insight into 911 calls, with the aim to improve training and operations.

According to a press release, APCO software will put the speech-to-text and analytics capacities to work in order to understand the actual context of emergency calls.

“This information will be aggregated and then using IBM Watson Analytics, agency directors can more readily analyze the conversations and compare them to pre-scripted content,” the press release states. From there, software will provide the directors with information on calls in “near real time” so they can modify their training techniques and materials to better respond to scenarios in the future.

“This augmented call taking and reporting will better inform directors on how the actual conversations between callers and telecommunicators unfold which may allow agencies to iteratively modify training materials to better meet callers’ needs,” says Bill Josko, U.S. public safety practice leader for IBM Global Business Services, in the press release. “And since Watson is able to understand and learn more context overtime through machine learning, it can also help to reduce call times, provide accurate triage information, and help expedite time sensitive emergency services.”

Memphis EMS Gets a Boost from Watson Analytics

But this isn’t IBM’s first foray into improving healthcare efficiency.

As part of the 2015 IBM Smart Cities Challenge, Watson Analytics helped reveal trends and visualize data for Emergency Medical Services in Memphis, Tenn. This analysis helped the city proactively send health services to vulnerable populations and freed up the EMS system to focus on real emergency situations, saving the city roughly $20 million.

The city used data visualization tools to pinpoint which areas of the city had the highest 911 call volume. It then sent mobile health clinics to those areas to address non–life threatening issues and provide preventative care, thus cutting back on nonemergency calls. The data also helped to validate many of the programs the city was considering, such as putting healthcare providers on the phone with patients.

"Freeing up the system from nonemergency calls helps those people in emergency situations," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said following the release of IBM’s findings last year, reports The Commercial Appeal. "But the people who use 911 for nonemergency problems, they have health issues themselves and they need assistance. But there's a better way to do it."

IBM Watson Joins the Battle Against the Opioid Crisis

States and healthcare organizations alike are overwhelmed with the current opioid crisis. Government data published June 20, which surveyed opioid-related hospital visits between 2005 and 2014, revealed a 64 percent uptick in inpatient care and a doubling of opioid-related emergency room visits, StateTech reports.

Several technologies, such as prescription drug monitoring programs, geographic information systems and more, are being used to help stem the tide of overdoses. In May, IBM joined the fray, forming a partnership with global health firm MAP Health Management to use Watson Analytics to analyze doctors’ handwriting and real-time data from smart devices, such as wearables, in conjunction with patient-risk models in order to identify the patients most likely to relapse.

Aetna Behavioral Health will deploy the new solution sometime in the next few months with the aim to predict and intervene in substance abuse relapses among members.

“The current method of assessing, treating and paying for addiction and substance care isn’t sustainable. It’s time to leverage an advanced cognitive technology platform like IBM Watson to help make the right, evidence-based decisions to best treat those suffering from addiction,” says Jacob Levenson, CEO of MAP Health Management, in a statement. “This could help patients manage their disease more effectively over the long term. Bringing Watson into MAP’s ecosystem has the potential to improve countless lives and reduce substance abuse costs. MAP and IBM Watson hope to make a huge impact.”

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