IBM invests $250 million in health-IT and research

FRAMINGHAM (02/19/2004) - IBM Corp. announced Thursday it has launched a US$250-million initiative to assist healthcare providers and payers in saving money and reducing patient errors.

The initiative includes collaborations with Duke University Health System in Durham, N.C., and Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Fla. It will also provide "new healthcare solutions designed to support information-based medicine initiatives," according to a press release issued by IBM.

Thursday's announcement includes the launch of the following groups:

- IBM Center for Healthcare Management, which will provide internal grants to researchers within IBM focusing on provider and payer issues

- IBM's Aligned Clinical Environment, designed to help providers analyze and manage complex clinical, research, and administrative data

- IBM's Research and Life Sciences Institute, which will work with IBM research labs and focus on pushing technology innovation for the healthcare, life science, and pharmaceutical industries

- IBM's Information Based Medicine Unit, a research group that will focus on the role IT plays in personalized medicine

"We see healthcare as a growing industry and wanted to partner with visible clients to improve the overall quality (of healthcare)," said Barbara Archibold, strategy and change healthcare partner for IBM's business consulting services, in a phone interview with Health-IT World News late this morning.

Other clients involved in this initiative are the Mayo Clinic and the University of California at San Francisco Medical School.

Archibold declined to break down how the $250-million investment will be distributed, but said a significant portion will be earmarked for hiring healthcare specialists and launching joint client projects.

One of the biggest benefits of this initiative for IBM, according to Forrester Research analyst Eric Brown, is the company's ability to "integrate various medical systems." For IBM, integration is a huge theme. "This is a company that has the tools to tackle business processes (with its acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers) and its own technology expertise and offerings. For healthcare provider and payer organizations to get up to speed, in terms of informatics, a lot of work is needed, and much of it is directly related to (successful) integration," Brown said.

Becoming part of the transformation in healthcare is a vital component in IBM's strategy, Archibold said. "We are trying to change workflow processes and automate key steps in the delivery of better care and services."

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