Collaborating Authors

How IBM Watson Overpromised and Underdelivered on AI Health Care

IEEE Spectrum Robotics

In 2014, IBM opened swanky new headquarters for its artificial intelligence division, known as IBM Watson. Inside the glassy tower in lower Manhattan, IBMers can bring prospective clients and visiting journalists into the "immersion room," which resembles a miniature planetarium. There, in the darkened space, visitors sit on swiveling stools while fancy graphics flash around the curved screens covering the walls. It's the closest you can get, IBMers sometimes say, to being inside Watson's electronic brain. One dazzling 2014 demonstration of Watson's brainpower showed off its potential to transform medicine using AI--a goal that IBM CEO Virginia Rometty often calls the company's moon shot. In the demo, Watson took a bizarre collection of patient symptoms and came up with a list of possible diagnoses, each annotated with Watson's confidence level and links to supporting medical literature. Within the comfortable confines of the dome, Watson never failed to impress: Its memory banks held knowledge of every rare disease, and its processors weren't susceptible to the kind of cognitive bias that can throw off doctors. It could crack a tough case in mere seconds. If Watson could bring that instant expertise to hospitals and clinics all around the world, it seemed possible that the AI could reduce diagnosis errors, optimize treatments, and even alleviate doctor shortages--not by replacing doctors but by helping them do their jobs faster and better.

Medtronic, IBM Watson diabetes app gains hypoglycemia prediction feature


Called IQcast, the feature tells users whether they have a low, medium or high chance of dropping below the target blood glucose range within the next one to four hours. These individual-specific predictions are generated by analyzing data collected through Sugar.IQ app and the Guardian Connect device. The Sugar.IQ app is currently available in the App Store for free download. The FDA-cleared app uses IBM Watson Health's AI and analytics tools to help users see how their glucose levels change during the day, and includes a smart food logging system, motivational insights, a glycemic assistant, a data tracker and a glycemic insights feature. Hypoglycemia -- defined by the American Diabetes Association as a blood glucose level lower than 70 mg/dL -- can lead to symptoms ranging from lightheadedness and lethargy to vision impairment and seizures.

IBM Watson aligns with 16 health systems and imaging firms to apply cognitive computing to battle cancer, diabetes, heart disease


IBM Watson Health has formed a medical imaging collaborative with more than 15 leading healthcare organizations. The goal: To take on some of the most deadly diseases. The collaborative, which includes health systems, academic medical centers, ambulatory radiology providers and imaging technology companies, aims to help doctors address breast, lung, and other cancers; diabetes; eye health; brain disease; and heart disease and related conditions, such as stroke. Watson will mine insights from what IBM calls previously invisible unstructured imaging data and combine it with a broad variety of data from other sources, such as data from electronic health records, radiology and pathology reports, lab results, doctors' progress notes, medical journals, clinical care guidelines and published outcomes studies. As the work of the collaborative evolves, Watson's rationale and insights will evolve, informed by the latest combined thinking of the participating organizations.

IBM's Watson Health, American Diabetes Association partner on cognitive apps, analytics


IBM's Watson Health and the American Diabetes Association have outlined a multi-year partnership to analyze clinical and research data to better manage diabetes. The partnership was outlined at the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) annual scientific powwow in New Orleans. The goal is to use data to build cognitive applications for doctors, researchers and patients. Watson Health and the ADA have been working together to analyze 300,000 patient records to model outcomes and the disease as well as manage care. Apple, acquisitions, and adherence: Inside IBM's Watson Health unit IBM Watson-powered app aims to make hospital visits less daunting for young patients IBM's bet on cognitive computing, Watson will take time to pay off IBM acquires Truven Health Analytics for 2.6 billion to bulk up Watson Health According to IBM, Watson's APIs have been used in the field for about two years.

IBM Watson: Style and Substance


IBM Watson, the distributed natural language processing platform, isn't the only advanced system available, but it's the highest-profile and arguably the most sophisticated. It's also important to recognize how shrewdly Watson is being marketed. Even before Watson was Watson, IBM was adept at generating publicity for its futuristic computing activities. Most famously, Big Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Four years later, Watson, in a form far more rudimentary than today's commercialized version, beat Ken Jennings, the human Jeopardy!