IBM Debuts Apple ResearchKit Study on Watson Health Cloud

Photograph Courtesy of IBM

IBM’s Watson Health Cloud is officially open for business.

The health data platform was initially launched in April last year with the IBM Watson Health unit, though the cloud service has been ramping up its services mostly behind the scenes until now. The American Sleep Apnea Association and IBM (IBM) introduced the SleepHealth app Wednesday, a wide-reaching sleep study that leverages Apple’s ResearchKit to collect data that will be stored, sorted, and analyzed in the Watson Health Cloud.

“With ResearchKit and Watson Health Cloud, this new app will help us build the world’s largest longitudinal study to collect data on both healthy and unhealthy sleepers that can be shared with other researchers in an open-source format,” said Carl Stepnowsky, the ASAA’s chief science officer and principal investigator for the study.

The Watson Health Cloud, which is fully HIPAA compliant, will operate as the back-end data solution for the study. Its setup provides custom analytics dashboards to researchers so that they can collate and analyze the reams of data collected from an iPhone or Apple Watch as well as self-reported questions. The platform also allows researchers to connect the collected data with other diverse information within the cloud, such as medical literature, treatment guidelines, claims data, and other clinical data to uncover patterns and connections.

“One of our goals at IBM Watson Health is to eliminate silos that hinder collaboration between researchers, patients, and clinicians, and create opportunities for these communities to share and learn from one another,” said Kyu Rhee, chief health officer for Watson Health.

The troves of data also run in the other direction, allowing patients enrolled in the study to pull information both on the study and sleep disorders. The app becomes a personalized tool that can provide tips on health and sleep.

Sleep is one of the most important factors affecting overall health–the lack of which plagues nearly 25% of Americans at any given point. More than 10% of Americans deal with chronic insomnia, while another 25 million people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Chronic sleep loss can be accompanied by severe health issues like increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and cancer.

The new SleepHealth app and SleepHealth Mobile Study is looking to identify connections between sleep habits and health outcomes with a study that’s expected to run over several years. After which point, the research team hopes to develop personalized and public health interventions for a range of sleep-related issues.

“It is exciting to see the Watson Health Cloud and our ecosystem of partners advance our understanding of how an essential, yet often under-appreciated factor like sleep significantly impacts so many important health outcomes like heart disease and diabetes,” said Rhee.

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