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INNOVATION | Predicting patients: ODH, with help from IBM's Watson, aims to change behavioral health

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IBM Watson Group Unveils Cloud-Delivered Watson Services.
IBM Watson Group Unveils Cloud-Delivered Watson Services. - ()

Officials at Princeton-based ODH Inc. always are looking for innovative ways to improve.

So when they saw how IBM Watson had helped predict crime hotspots in New York City, they wondered if the highly touted and highly criticized innovative platform could help their behavioral health analytics company find ways to reduce the cost of mental health care.

Since the two companies had an existing partnership, the next step was easy.

Last week, IBM Watson Health announced it has created Mentrics in partnership with ODH.

“(Mentrics will be) a leading-edge population health management platform designed to help managed care organizations transform the quality and cost of behavioral health care,” ODH said in a statement last week.

“Mentrics will streamline data and care coordination while generating valuable insights to help optimize care for patients with behavioral health conditions.”

Part of the existing problem is that mental illness and chronic health conditions cost at least 75 percent more than health care costs for other patients, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The higher cost, paired with a fragmented behavioral health system that lacks fluid communication, results in poorer results for patients.

Michael Jarjour, who took over as CEO and president of ODH last fall, said the company will use the Watson Health Cloud to aggregate health data and produce predictive insights to help treat the patient, modify behaviors and analyze which patients are most in need.

Currently, insurance companies estimate 5 percent of their population includes behavioral health patients, but that population comprises at least half of the total costs of the health insurance companies, Jarjour said.

“Mentrics is the result of four years of research and development to tackle the challenges facing managed care organizations responsible for behavioral health benefits,” Jarjour said. “Built with our deep expertise in behavioral health and using IBM’s technology and security prowess, Mentrics represents what we believe will be a turning point in the industry’s ability to substantially improve care quality and outcomes, as well as network efficiency for reduced costs.”

Lauren O’Donnell, vice president of life sciences for IBM Watson Health, said the company has lofty goals.

The IBM Watson Health and ODH partnership is similar to the partnership IBM recently announced with Plainsboro-based Novo Nordisk, but aimed at diabetes patients.
The IBM Watson Health and ODH partnership is similar to the partnership IBM recently announced with Plainsboro-based Novo Nordisk, but aimed at diabetes patients. - ()

“One of the biggest gaps in our health system today is behavioral health care, and we are proud to be working with ODH to take on this tremendous challenge,” she said.

“Our goal with Mentrics is to make it easier for managed care organizations to achieve clinical and business goals in population health management, while optimizing provider network performance so that patients don’t fall through the cracks.” 

Watson’s ability to analyze data has been touted over the last few years, and it recently announced a similar partnership with Plainsboro-based Novo Nordisk aimed at treating diabetes patients.

But there has been some backlash over secrecy surrounding Watson’s abilities, and some companies have been less than impressed in recent months.

Jarjour said that some capabilities may be in the beginning stages, but the ones he needs are definitely more advanced.

For example, Jarjour said he has been able to work with health insurance companies that have customers nationwide and is analyzing data sets from 850,000 to more than 1 million, year over year, to help the companies understand who their high-cost patients are that are most in need.

For one company, the total number of behavioral health patients it has throughout the country is 4 million.

“That’s the magnitude of what we are working on,” Jarjour said.

When Jarjour first approaches insurance companies, he said the companies think the results are too good to be true. But after showing his data, he said he is able to begin working with them.

What’s next? That’s easy.

Jarjour said he hopes to leverage the partnership with Watson to result in cost-cutting for both care providers and payers around the country.

E-mail to: anjaleek@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @anjkhem

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