IBM's iPhone app will help 20 million Americans keep their sight

Bausch + Lomb, IBM and Apple iOS technologies will streamline and improve cataract surgery provision.

Apple, iOS, IBM, Bausch + Lomb, iPhone, iPad, Watson, healthcare, M2M, digital health

Inset: Anil Shivaram, M.D., from Claremont Eye Associates in Claremont, CA prepares for a cataract surgery on his iPad.

Credit: IBM/Bausch + Lomb

The impact of mobile on healthcare is among the most acceptable elements of the digital transformation of everything that is taking place right before our eyes, and the latest news from IBM is that iPads and iPhones will become essential tools for eye surgeons, I spoke with the company to find out more.


IBM and Bausch + Lomb are developing the first iOS app for cataract surgeons. “Bausch + Lomb’s vision is to optimize the app to collect data over time, resulting in a cognitive app that applies machine-based learning and predictive analytics to deliver real-time insights to surgeons.” Pilot study testing of the app should begin later this year.

That’s right, this means this will eventually become one of the first trailblazing examples of big data analysis and machine intelligence used in support of healthcare. You can expect much more of this in future, and look forward to a plethora of third-party iOS-compatible devices that can significantly boost healthcare such as AliveCor.

Getting inside the data goldmine

For more about the solution please read IBM’s press release. I spoke with Andy Chang, senior vice president and general manager, U.S. Surgical, Bausch + Lomb; and Terrel Marks, Global Apple Partnership Lead, Healthcare & Life Sciences, IBM to find a little more detail, but before we get into that a few data points:

  • Cataracts affect over 22 million Americans.
  • The app compiles patient information, including intraocular lens calculations, biometry results and lifestyle preferences.
  • It electronically manages patient data across iPhone and iPad. It hosts health-related data on secure cloud-based platform, IBM Cloud Platform, Bluemix.
  • Surgeons can access each patient's information using iOS, enabling them to create personalized intraocular lens and procedure recommendations.


Why might the app make a difference? “The process for managing patient information today is still very much a manual process for many cataract surgeons,” explained Chang. “With this app, surgeons will now have the ability to access each patient’s surgical information in one place, receive intuitive feedback for IOL selection, and help improve future procedures while driving greater efficiencies in managing patient flow; an incredible benefit for practices.”

Digital dividend

The plethora of connected devices, including wearables (39.5 million U.S. adults 18 and over uses wearable devices, including smartwatches and fitness trackers, says eMarketer) means the sheer scale of patient data being collected is growing incredibly fast, and this is where digital technologies can help realize valuable insights.

“Health information is doubling every two years now, and it's too much for any one person to keep up with,” said IBM’s Marks.

Explaining this is why IBM is attempting to exploit mobile, cloud and data analytics solutions to help acquire insights from this information, he said, “Through our partnership with Apple, we have an entire suite of apps for nurses and doctors to streamline workflow… Watson technologies, which are delivered on mobile devices via the cloud, are helping clinicians sift through structured and unstructured information from clinical data, genomics, and medical literature to help deliver evidence-based, personalized cancer care.”

Accurate diagnosis, personalized care

That’s the point, I guess – to realize more accurate diagnosis, more personalized treatment by unlocking more “holistic insights from previously siloed data,” Marks points out.

“Through this new app, we're bringing together data from the clinical record, the specific measurements of the cornea, and surgical guidelines -- and we're serving it up in an app to help streamline how doctors access the information they need before performing eye surgery.”

“By capturing, displaying, and analyzing the data over time in an iterative process, this app is expected to help surgeons provide better care and potentially help provide improved surgical outcomes, while at the same time increasing their efficiency,” said Anil Shivaram, M.D., Claremont Eye Associates, in a press release.

What makes these families of app possible is IBM’s enterprise partnership with Apple.

“The collaboration combines our industry strength and expertise, IBM’s advanced data management capabilities, Apple’s innovative app ecosystem and Bausch + Lomb’s clinical expertise, to give surgeons the ability to easily access patient’s information in one place, from an iPad or iPhone.”

Good health is good business

With Apple expected to introduce new health-focused features in the coming weeks and its provision of HealthKit, CareKit and ResearchKit tools for the sector, the company is clearly set to play a part in future health provision across this planet.

That’s not just potentially good for your health, it’s also good business -- w earable health devices will be a $17.8 billion annual market with 97.6 million devices shipping each year by 2021, according to Tractica.

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