August 5, 2010 / 4:18 AM / in 7 years

IBM and Aetna tie up to offer clinical support service

NEW YORK (Reuters) - IBM and Aetna Inc on Thursday jointly launched a service aimed at helping hospitals improve patient care by making better use of electronic medical records and other digital data.

International Business Machines Corp said the service, developed with Aetna subsidiary ActiveHealth Management, would help physicians access patients’ health data like previous medical records, claims, and lab data from multiple sources and quickly analyze what the best treatment might be.

The service, which will incorporate IBM’s analytical software, is also designed to flag overdue check-ups and alert doctors to which patients in their wards require the most immediate attention.

These services could help hospitals reduce medical mistakes and unnecessary tests and treatments, IBM said.

Robert Merkel, vice president and healthcare industry leader of IBM Global Business Services, said: “With the adoption of electronic medical records, there’s a huge increase in digital information that’s available on patients. We’re leveraging that information and providing deep analytical insight to support doctors and patient care, and providing the most advanced analytics.”

The service will also help physicians and hospitals measure their performance against national standards. Doctors who show higher quality, lower-cost care could win higher reimbursement rates from insurance companies.

IBM has over the past decade shifted its focus from hardware to software and services, and is investing heavily on developing more analytical and predictive technologies that can be used to, for example, prevent fraud or help ease traffic congestion.

The company also sees the healthcare market as a key business opportunity, with the overall health IT market estimated at around $20 billion.

In addition to that, Merkel said, IBM was hoping to win access to $30 billion of federal funds for the adoption of electronic healthcare records. The Obama administration has created incentives to encourage doctors and hospitals to move to electronic record-keeping, with subsidies available from 2011.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Gary Hill

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