Detecting Alzheimer’s disease through blood tests

IBM (IBM) has built an artificial-intelligence-powered technology that could help with early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and save the American healthcare system a ton in care costs. According to a ZDNet report citing an IBM research study, the company has developed a way to detect Alzheimer’s disease risk through blood tests. Currently, the method used for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is both highly invasive and expensive, thereby discouraging its application in early detection of the disease. But early detection of Alzheimer’s disease can lead to significant reductions in costs associated with managing the condition.

IBM Working on Solution to a $7.9 Trillion Healthcare Problem

Soaring costs of Alzheimer’s disease

According to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association cited by US News and World Report, the cost of caring for people living with Alzheimer’s disease soared to $277 billion in 2018 from $257 billion in 2017. By 2050, the costs are expected to exceed $1.0 trillion. The report said that early detection of Alzheimer’s disease can save America as much as $7.9 trillion in costs of caring for people suffering from the disease.

Expanding addressable market in healthcare sector

For IBM, coming up with a simpler and less expensive Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis method could help it expand its addressable market in the healthcare sector and open another avenue to recoup its investments in research and development (or R&D). IBM is investing big in R&D as it seeks to create new revenue sources. In the fourth quarter, which ended in December 2018, the company spent $1.4 billion on R&D, representing 6.4% of the revenue it generated in that period.

Microsoft (MSFT) and SAP SE (SAP) spent 12.6% and 12% of their December quarter revenues on R&D, respectively. IBM’s cloud computing rivals Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOGL) parent Alphabet spent 11% and 12% of their revenues on R&D, respectively, in the December quarter.

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