IBM Watson's new task: helping reduce substance abuse relapses

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has described healthcare as IBM's "moonshot." Jacob Levenson, CEO of MAP Health Management, calls addiction "the great crisis of our time." Now the two companies are collaborating in what, as one healthcare expert put it, "promises to be a tremendous opportunity to leverage the power of Watson towards solving the scourge of opioid dependence and addiction now affecting so many people." With a problem as pervasive as this one, shooting for the moon is the right approach. – Philip Bane


The collaboration will address the pervasive problem of relapse among Americans suffering from Substance Use Disorder, a chronic disease.

According to an IBM press release, more than 22.5 million Americans need help with a Substance Use Disorder and only 2.6 million Americans are receiving treatment. It's suggested that many treatment programs currently do not provide sufficient support following acute treatment and lack a standardized means to collect data on long-term treatment program results. Austin-based MAP helps to fill that gap, and believes that using near real-time data and technology will enable them to better understand which patients are at greatest risk of relapse.

MAP – which provides comprehensive, accessible technologies designed to improve outcomes for patients treated for addictions and other behavioral health illnesses -- will integrate Watson cognitive technologies into its MAP Recovery Network Platform.  The objective is to enhance the platform’s existing capabilities around patient risk models. In doing so, it is anticipated that behavioral health and substance abuse treatment providers that use the MAP platform will be better able to predict and prevent incidence of relapse nationwide.

"The current method of assessing, treating and paying for addiction and substance care isn’t sustainable," said MAP CEO Levenson. "It’s time to leverage an advanced cognitive technology platform like IBM Watson to help make the right, evidence-based decisions to best treat those suffering from addiction. This could help patients manage their disease more effectively over the long term. Bringing Watson into MAP’s ecosystem has the potential to improve countless lives and reduce substance abuse costs. MAP and IBM Watson hope to make a huge impact."

Unlocking insights from patient data
Embedding Watson technologies into the MAP platform will allow MAP platform users to unlock and more easily act upon insights from MAP patient data that were previously hidden and overlooked by traditional solutions.

Here's an example: Case notes from a treatment expert or care manager can often be omitted or lost as part of an increasingly automated treatment process because they are a form of unstructured data from which traditional tools cannot capture and extract value. A MAP platform that includes Watson functionalities has the ability to read such case notes, potentially allowing the MAP platform to surface insights for a clinician to consider when interacting with a patient.

Aetna Behavioral Health is expected to deploy the Watson-powered MAP offering to help predict substance abuse relapses among its members. MAP and Aetna are working together, in conjunction with addiction treatment providers, to collect and analyze patient data to more sufficiently develop treatment protocol and long-term strategies to support a patient’s ability to achieve and remain in recovery.  It's believed the collection and application of these valuable outcomes data will help fill a current void in the addiction treatment field today and will drive better quality results across care continuums.

“IBM Watson Health and MAP have the potential to positively impact the tens of millions of people and families suffering from addiction in the United States,” said Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, VP of Partnerships and Solutions, IBM Watson Health. “MAP Health Management is widely recognized as having a robust addiction outcomes database. IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology is a natural fit to further empower what MAP is doing to help improve qualitative and quantitative outcomes in the behavioral health and addiction treatment fields.”

Related articles:
Can new devices and strategies help quell the opioid crisis?
Blaming and shaming isn't the solution to drug addiction (but technology could be)
More weapons in the battle against opioid addiction: Will they work in your city?

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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