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Modernizing Medicine, a software start-up offering medical-specialty-specific electronic medical record (EMR) solutions to physician practices in the US, is an interesting member of the new generation of cloud-based EMR vendors targeting the ambulatory sector, which also includes Athenahealth and eClinicalWorks. The vendor’s model has a key twist: it is highly mobile-centric and tailored to particular areas of medicine, such as dermatology. The recently announced investment by IBM bodes well for its further growth, but the more interesting aspect is its forthcoming use of IBM Watson for its schEMA mobile application to generate real-time clinical decision support. This underlines the extent to which IBM is seeking fresh approaches to commercializing Watson by embedding its capabilities in third-party applications.

IBM’s investment will allow Modernizing Medicine to expand into other specialties

Modernizing Medicine takes time and care in developing and customizing its Electronic Medical Assistant (EMA) solution for one specialty at a time, each of which normally takes around a year. Application development, sales, and marketing are also physician-led – a key factor in selling into the physician community effectively. Modernizing Medicine will need ongoing investment, like many start-ups, so that it can continue to expand into new specialties – this cannot be financed entirely through what is currently a robust cash flow. The vendor’s ability to attract investor funding to expand into areas such as ophthalmology and orthopedics is driven by its success in dermatology, an area in which the vendor claims to have gained close to 30% market share. The latest round of investment from IBM will provide greater scalability, and Modernizing Medicine plans to expand into eight new specialties.

A Watson-powered mobile app will enhance EMA’s capabilities

Modernizing Medicine’s EMR platform enables physicians to input structured data which, when aggregated, feeds into tailored clinical decision support. The challenge lies in establishing how large volumes of unstructured data could be used to derive useful insights for providers. To address this challenge, the vendor is working with IBM to integrate Watson into its upcoming mobile application schEMA, which will allow clinicians to get real-time responses on treatments, conditions, and outcomes based on published health information.

The application is currently available for dermatology and is being developed for other medical specialties. It will provide real-time clinical decision support and enable clinicians to ask questions in natural language about symptoms and treatments to receive real-time, evidence-based responses. Although EMA is adept at processing structured data, Watson is known for its ability to use published health information such as peer-reviewed journals to provide real-time responses on conditions, treatments, and outcomes. Watson’s cognitive computing skills will enhance EMA, as the mobile application will be capable of using both structured and unstructured data to help clinicians practice evidence-based medicine.


Further reading

“IBM Watson Analytics adds a guided query twist to self-service BI,” IT0014-002943 (September 2014)

“IBM Watson's commercial healthcare products go live,” IT018-001407 (February 2013)


Srikanth Venkataraman, Analyst, Healthcare Technology

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