Technology & Wearables

IBM Partnership and Wearables Could Lead to Better Health Tracking

Do you remember the Watson computer, the one that played Jeopardy! against former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter and won? It turns out this artificial intelligence is good for more than just winning a game show. IBM, creators of Watson, have announced a partnership with Apple, Medtronic, and Johnson & Johnson to use the artificial intelligence to track health received from wearable devices and provide personalized information about their health.

This advance in technology could be a giant step forward for corporate wellness programs.Acquiring and tracking health data in the past has been the domain of health risk assessments (HRAs) and biometric screenings. While providing data on employee health, the information from an HRA can be unreliable because employees may not provide accurate information.

This could be because an employee may genuinely not know their weight, or may be embarrassed to provide an accurate number. Biometric screenings can help solve this problem, but it still requires time away from work to visit a doctor for an exam. Wearables are proving to be a valuable solution for these problems. Where people were once able to lie or plead ignorance of their activity levels, with a wearable fitness tracker, that is no longer the case.

The latest fitness devices do more than count steps; they can detect stress, heart rate, oxygen saturation in the blood, how much sleep you get, and more sensors and functionality arising constantly. The question then becomes, what do you do with all of this data? IBM's Watson will do more than just collect health information.

Advancements in modern computing allow Watson to analyze this information and make recommendations to the user. It will also aggregate the data so physicians and researchers can have access to medical data sets that they have never had before. This will apply to wellness coordinators as well.

Having access to this unprecedented amount of data will allow wellness programs to track not just physical activity levels, but to catch costly chronic diseases like diabetes in an employee population before it becomes a major problem. Wellness programs are designed to improve the health of employees, and the advent of these partnerships and technologies will only make this task easier.

Having technology to track, record and analyze health information will make corporate wellness programs easier to administer and monitor. This is a great benefit because it creates healthier employees and helps companies avoid costly medical procedures. The benefits extend beyond just this however, potentially leading to a better overall healthcare system.

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