Pilot Study Will Test the Combined Power of Watson for Oncology and Cota

Hackensack Meridian Health will pilot a study using IBM's Watson for Oncology and Cota.

Robert Garrett

Hackensack Meridian Health will pilot a study that combines the use of IBM’s Watson for Oncology, which interprets patient data and provides treatment guidance, and Cota, which provides real-world patient data for large cohort analysis and individualized treatment guidance. The goal is to help oncologists make improved evidence- and outcomes-based clinical decisions for their cancer patients and potentially also reduce overall costs of care.

"Hackensack Meridian Health is excited to expand our existing partnership with Cota by incorporating the deep insights Watson for Oncology has to offer," said Robert Garrett, co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. He said the pilot study would help achieve the value-based ideals that are gaining traction in healthcare.

The Hackensack Meridian Health pilot will be rolled out to an initial group of 10 oncologists and will be available to as many as 500 patients from now through October. Watson will be used by oncologists to help identify and rank treatment options, providing links to supporting evidence and deepening the insight oncologists have as they consider appropriate treatment options.

In the first portion of the study, Cota will provide abstract and structured data along with patient classification information for Watson which will interpret meaning and context from clinical notes, reports, and other key patient information. In the second phase of the pilot, evidence-based treatment recommendations and care paths provided by Watson will include insights on bundled payment assignments.

"With the transition to value-based care, health systems are under increased pressure to provide accountable, high-quality care while keeping costs low. But clinicians lack the resources that can help them identify optimal treatment options at the point of care, limiting their ability to achieve value," said Andrew Pecora, MD, founder and executive chairman of Cota and chief innovations officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. "The combined insights possible from Cota and Watson for Oncology fills this void.”

Cota is designed to take data from electronic health records that may be fragmented and unstructured and turn it into an accurate and structured format. The Cota Nodal Address system classifies patient data according to multiple parameters so that useful associations can be made across wide data cohorts to make personalized medicine possible. The Cota system is also designed to leverage large amounts of patient data to gain useful insight into practice patterns, outcomes, costs, and quality issues. The real-world evidence collected by Cota also helps to strengthen understanding of how available agents perform in the more realistic patient populations seen by physicians outside of clinical trials.

Watson has been gaining acceptance as a clinical tool that provides doctors with a virtual second opinion based on broad analysis of available patient treatment data and up-to-date clinical trial reports. The system is available to physicians in the form of a tablet computer and has been shown to achieve high concordance with the treatment recommendations of human tumor boards. Watson has been offered as a tool for bringing a higher level of disease analysis and treatment recommendations into parts of the world where physician resources are lower than in the developed world or in affluent market centers.

"An increasing body of clinical evidence supports the value of Watson for Oncology to help democratize access to quality, evidence-based treatment, bringing the world's leading expertise to doctors all over the world," said Rob Merkel, vice president and general manager of oncology and genomics, IBM Watson Health. "In today's environment and the shift toward bundled payment, care providers often need a combined view that helps them keep pace with not only the latest clinical evidence but also the value they can expect from a particular patient based on real world evidence and patient similarity analytics.”

He added that “Cota provides powerful new data-driven capabilities to help meet this need."

Following the pilot, Hackensack Meridian Health expects to roll out the Watson-Cota combination technology throughout its system, extending access to these tools to oncologists across its health network.