IBM Watson Health invests $50 million in Brigham and Women’s and Vanderbilt for health AI

IBM Watson Health will make a 10-year, $50 million investment in research collaborations with two separate academic centers – Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which is a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center – to advance the science of artificial intelligence and its application to major public health issues.

Problems suited for AI

The scientific collaborations with each institution will focus on critical health problems that are ideally suited for AI solutions. Initial areas of study are expected to include the use of AI to improve the utility of electronic health records and claims data to address significant public health issues like patient safety, precision medicine and health equity. The research also will explore physician and patient user experience and interactions with AI technologies.

“Building on the MIT-IBM Watson Lab announced last year, this collaboration will include contributions from IBM Watson Health’s longstanding commitment to scientific research and our belief that working together with the world’s leading institutions is the fastest path to develop, advance and understand practical solutions that solve some of the world’s biggest health challenges,” said Dr. Kyu Rhee, vice president and chief health officer at IBM Watson Health.

“Today, for example, physicians are spending an average of two hours with their electronic health records and deskwork for every hour of patient care, a phenomenon the American Medical Association says is leading to a steady increase in physician burnout,” he continued. “AI is the most powerful technology we have today to tackle issues like this one, but there is still a great deal of work to be done to demystify the real role of AI in healthcare with practical, proven results, and clear-cut best practices.”

By putting the full force of the company’s clinical and research team together with two of the world’s leading academic medical centers, IBM Watson Health will dramatically accelerate the development of real-world AI solutions that improve workflow efficiencies and outcomes, he added.

A host of physician executives

Drawing on the respective areas of expertise from each organization, the collaborations will be a joint effort among: IBM Watson Health’s newly appointed vice president and chief science officer, Dr. Gretchen Purcell Jackson; Dr. David Bates, chief of general internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Kevin Johnson, chair of the department of biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and Dr. Gordon Bernard, executive vice president for research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“IBM Watson Health has had a long history of leading in scientific research,” Jackson said. “These collaborations give our scientists at IBM Watson Health the opportunity to work with some of the best health informatics researchers in the world to advance the field in the areas of artificial intelligence, clinical decision support and implementation science.”

Medical data is expected to double every 73 days by 2020, Jackson added.

“We all know that the future of health belongs to AI, but today health around the globe is siloed and not actionable, making timely insights difficult to obtain,” Bates explained. “Through AI, we have an opportunity to do better, and our hope is to find new ways through science and partnerships with industry leaders like Watson Health to unlock the full potential of AI to improve the utility of the EHR and claims data to address major public health issues like patient safety.”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
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