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American Heart Association goes with health IT

The American Heart Association is giving some powerful health IT tools to employers to use in the workplace to improve the heart health of Americans, more than 85 million of whom have cardiovascular disease.

The initiative, in conjunction with IBM’s Watson Health unit and Welltok, Inc., a consumer-oriented population health system vendor, was announced Feb. 1, the first day of American Heart Month.

At the core of the program is the AHA’s new Workplace Health Achievement Index, which the AHA says uses best practices to measure and rank corporate health initiatives and assesses companies on their workplace health culture.

The index came out of the AHA’s CEO Roundtable, a workplace health group representing some of the country’s biggest employers.

The health IT part, which is still in development, \will come by using Watson’s cognitive computing-driven analytics capabilities combined with science-based metrics and health assessments developed by the AHA.

“Watson will uncover cognitive insights by analyzing data from the Index to provide guidance on how an employer can support employee health, such as informing how corporations design, tailor and deliver health benefits and health promotion programs that maximize the health of the workforce,” according to an IBM release detailing its partnership with the AHA.

Under the AHA health IT plan, the Watson system will work with Welltok’s software platform to allow individual employees to participate — online or with a mobile device — in the workplace heart health programs linked to Watson.

Employees can complete AHA’s cardiovascular health questionnaire, My Life Check, which measures key indicators such as not smoking, eating healthily, being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, and reducing blood sugar.

Welltok will use consumer insights from the questionnaire and data collected by wearable fitness trackers, wireless scales and blood pressure cuffs to help people make healthy choices to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

“With this program, individuals and their employers will be able to benefit from a personalized, cognitive [system] designed to help improve heart health and reduce healthcare costs,” Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., the AHA’s chief medical officer for prevention, said in the release. “Our hope is that we can set a new standard for continuous quality improvement in workplace health.”