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It was an expensive gamble. IBM spent billions acquiring a trio of companies with vast stores of patient health data, in the hope that its vaunted Watson supercomputer could mine that information for business and clinical insights to sell to U.S. hospitals. But it hasn’t worked out that way.

IBM laid off Watson Health employees across the country last month who were tasked with turning that bold ambition into new revenue for the technology giant.


Layoffs are typical after a spate of acquisitions, but STAT interviews with former IBM employees suggest that Watson Health is grappling with a deeper problem — that the company has struggled to turn its new trove of patient data into workable products, and that instead of attracting a wave of new hospital clients, Watson Health is starting to shed business.

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  • 1%? Some offices lost over 50% of people. Explorys lost tens of people. I can tell you that many names RA’d I know were important engineers built current WH stack. Projects that are announced as major focuses for the future lost people and currently everyone is just waiting to see when they will be fired. Total confusion. This is “a big shrinkage” and all executives are fighting to be the last part remaining. That is nothing about clients as “we will help them understand our efforts”. Executives making all decisions have no idea about technology, at least not about technology that is current and that can win in a competitive market. The foundational problem is the order of things: you first discover a hammer and then you are trying to hammer everything around and use PR to convince clients that hammering is very important for their businesses.

  • From a friend whose top-10 pharma company had a deal with IBM Watson:

    “AI/IBM Watson’s test to pull out insights from field team comments? It Failed. Wanted to identify unknown KOLs (people they haven’t met with but should be meeting with), and identify trends from free text comments. They couldn’t do what they said they could do. Pilot was 1 year. Met with real data science people once or twice, rest was all sales and marketing people hand waving. Back to having MSL in each region be responsible for identifying new KOLs.”

    • I work at a top 3 pharma company and WH Life sciences did a grear deal for my organization. Great data asset and capable staff.

      Wish their clinial trials matching products were a bit more mature though. Regardless, we were very impressed.

  • Used to be part of Watson Health and although I don’t think things are going swell, those layoffs last month were just mostly from Explorys, who was useless. Payer laid off 1% (5 people). Provider probably did something similar, but they’re much larger.

    Didn’t read most of the story because I’m not subscribing. Just saying how overblown the coverage has been.

    • Explorys is definetely not useless. ‘Former WH’ has absolutely know idea what he/she is talking about. Explorys is a huge portion of the provider business segment so speaking about Explorys as if its not a part of the provider segment shows how little you actually know. Without Explorys, you don’t have a viable provider segment.

      Please learn the facts before you post this crap.

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