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IBM is modifying its Watson software that recommends cancer treatments so that it reflects geographic differences in how patients are treated around the world, according to a recording of a staff meeting reviewed by STAT.

That represents a major shift for IBM on a venture that the company has aggressively promoted as having the potential to revolutionize medicine. It has long marketed Watson for Oncology as being based on the expertise of doctors at the prestigious New York cancer center who trained it. But some physicians at foreign hospitals that use or have considered buying the software have complained about irrelevant or inaccurate treatment recommendations and expressed dissatisfaction with its American bias.


At the internal meeting last Wednesday for Watson Health employees worldwide, a top executive said that the treatments recommended by the system would soon incorporate localized treatment advice and that — for the first time — data from real patients would be included in Watson for Oncology. It is unclear, however, what patient data will be used, and how.

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