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Workplace Heart Health Platform in Development

Measuring blood pressure

(Wikimedia Commons)

1 February 2016. American Heart Association is developing a technology platform to help people at work track progress toward their wellness goals, and allow companies to evaluate their corporate wellness programs. The platform takes advantage of cloud computing power from the IBM Watson system and connects users through the Web or mobile access.

The new system is based on American Heart Association’s assessments for individuals to measure factors affecting heart health, for improving overall wellness and reducing the incidence of heart disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, resulting in 610,000 deaths each year, or about 1 death in every 4. Coronary heart disease is the most common heart disorder, causing some 370,000 deaths. In addition, 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year, including 525,000 individuals who have  heart attacks for the first time.

The platform gathers data with the association’s Life’s Simple 7 questionnaire that measures an individual’s performance on seven cardiovascular indicators — smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercise, healthy food choices, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, and reducing blood sugar — which can help reduce risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. These indicators are then collected with their employers’ scores on best practices to compute an overall workplace health achievement index, providing a measure of a company’s workplace health culture.

American Heart Association contracted with health technology company Welltok to collect and initially process individual wellness and company health-culture data. Welltok offers its CaféWell health optimization platform for employees to connect and engage with their wellness information, while maintaining legal-mandated privacy controls. In the new system, Welltok is providing data-collection routines both for Web and mobile access, as well as importing data from devices such as fitness trackers, blood-pressure cuffs, and wireless scales.

In addition to assessments for individuals and employers, the system is making use of IBM Watson, a cloud-based analytical platform that analyzes large volumes of data and can respond to queries made in natural language. In the American Heart Association program, Watson is expected to provide insights and guidance for companies to better support their workers’ health goals and optimize overall workforce health. For health applications, Watson’s data records are de-identified and processed to provide evidenced-based answers. The system’s deep learning capabilities will make it possible to train Watson in evidence-based heart health issues, goals, and measures.

American Heart Association says a study it commissioned finds employees respond and feel encouraged by senior management when workplace health programs are available. The results show staff taking part in workplace health programs are more than twice as likely to eat healthy, and encourage greater job satisfaction.

Disclosure: The author owns shares in IBM.

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