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It was a summer day in 2018, and the outlook could hardly have seemed more bleak for Watson Health, IBM’s self-described “moonshot” to revolutionize medicine with artificial intelligence. The operation was reeling from layoffs and sharply critical media reports, and several of its product lines had failed to meet revenue targets.

But Lisa Rometty, a vice president of the business, painted an entirely different picture at a global meeting of hundreds of employees by video conference. She proclaimed that a business trip left her “feeling on top of the world” as she described a product the company marketed as helping to save lives, even though there was no evidence to back up that claim.


Rometty said her hopefulness was based on a scene she had witnessed inside a Chinese hospital that was using Watson to help treat cancer patients. The wife of a patient had asked doctors if they could extend her husband’s life by even one or two days, Rometty recounted. It was the only thing that mattered to her.

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  • To change healthcare will take a country and time — we have learned that over the years. If you are over 20%of the GNP – no one company, no one technology will change it. AI will transform some aspects of healthcare but not at the level of Watson’s vision. Let’s work on our public health infrastructure to have equity across all economic and cultural divides. If we can solve that with AI — we will have come a long way.

  • Gee, Haven was all these brilliant corporate CEOs and corporations and Atl Grande — ready to “fix” healthcare.

    Belly up like Watson.

    Maybe fixing healthcare isn’t quite as easy as it seems.

    In an opinion piece today the head of Leap Frog made it sound like a piece of cake to improve outcomes . . . . For people with employer-sponsored coverage. As if the HC system can be “fixed” for only one segment of the population.

    It’s interesting that they people with all the answers don’t actually work IN hospitals.

  • A good article. It has been apparent for years that Watson Oncology was useless garbage. It has shown that IBM is dishonest and scientifically inept. Unfortunately, it also demonstrates the broad ignorance of pharmaceutical companies and academic oncology research institutions in their giving IBM millions and their not being able to recognize the lack of evidence in support of their product. I suspect that management in pharma that makes large budgetary decisions is too arrogant and eager for publicity to recognize their need for independent scientific review.

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