IBM has unveiled a first-of-its-kind corporate citizenship programme called the IBM Health Corps to help communities address health challenges such as primary care gaps, health worker shortages and access to safe water and nutritious food.

The initiative will dispatch the company’s leading innovators with expertise in data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to work alongside public health leaders to understand their challenges and implement sustainable, data-driven solutions for health problems identified by the communities themselves.

Last year IBM completed a successful pilot programme in Johannesburg where IBM Health Corps collaborated with Africa Health Placements to address acute physician shortages.

IBM built a mobile-enabled application that will allow clinic and hospital administrators to directly report staffing needs to the government in real time.

The team also built a mathematical model for use by health managers and policy makers to analyse and visualise the data captured from the facilities and better deploy medical staff.

Together, these technologies aim to facilitate better short- and long-term staffing decisions, potentially leading to better health outcomes, decreased patient wait times, and more equitable healthcare for communities. IBM, Africa Health Placements and the Department of Health plan to pilot these technologies shortly.

“Our work with IBM Health Corps shows the potential of mobile technologies at the front-end in primary care facilities and high impact visual modelling at the policymaker level to provide important insights and link key players in the health care management chain,” said CEO of Africa Health Placements, Saul Kornik.

“Real time insights can improve decision making and planning that will have real impact on healthcare access and patient’s lives,” continued Kornik.

IBM plans to further pilot the Health Corps in a project next month with Unity Health Care, one of the largest community health centres in the US that provides primary care to more than 100,000 underserved residents through its 26 local clinics in the Washington D.C. area.

The Health Corps team will be tasked with creating an operational blueprint for piloting and scaling a model for clinics that combines both primary and behavioural health care within each care team. Unity believes that this could benefit individuals whose emotional or behavioural health issues exacerbate their other chronic diseases. Unity believes it may also lower emergency and long-term health expenses.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with IBM Health Corps to help us address our patients’ behavioural health needs,” said Executive Vice President for Transformation and Innovation, Unity Health Care, Inc., Seiji Hayashi, MD, MPH, FAAFP.

“With their expertise in data analytics and population health capabilities, IBM’s support will catalyse our work and help us improve the quality of life for thousands of people in the D.C. community,” contined Hayashi.

Later this year, following a competitive proposal process, IBM will select five communities to receive the expertise of IBM’s best problem solving teams equipped with relevant health and technical expertise in disciplines such as cognitive, cloud, mobile and social computing; predictive analytics; medicine and population health, who will analyse the local health challenges, then recommend detailed solutions.

These might include blueprints and strategies for organisational, programmatic, technological and operational enhancements. The commercial value of each engagement is estimated at USD $500,000. Applications may be submitted to IBM through April 20th by visiting ibmhealthcorps.org.

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