What Is The Reason Of IBM Watson’s Failure In Healthcare?

Webcubator Technologies
2 min readMay 20, 2020

Let’s first understand the expectations of advanced technology in the medical sector.

Generally, doctors have a conservative approach for genuine reasons while considering the assimilation of upcoming technologies in the healthcare industry.

However, with passing time, the medical community’s trust is increasing.


IBM Watson was against huge technical challenge against rising technology giants like Apple and Google.

In 2015, there was an announcement of a special division of Watson Health, and till 2016 it had accessed data worth $4 billion from 4 health data companies.

The senior vice president at IBM, John E. Kelly III, stated It was a challenging task to assimilate AI in health care with its difficulties.

IBM focussed on many healthcare aspects like administrative staff, patients, physicians, and insurers to create a business.

The most public and ambitious project was oncology based. IBM AI researchers were trying to use Watson’s abilities to turn big data into customized cancer treatments.

A leading AI researcher, Yoshua Bengio, said that AI systems could not understand uncertainty and pick up on underlying faint signs that doctors generally can observe.

It was an incredibly huge task to create an AI with the same understanding and insight as a human doctor.

It received intense criticism and a few even alleged that Watson of oncology providing irrelevant and terrible suggestions.

The primary concern was to make Watson assess the clinical studies and outcomes, just like a doctor would.

There was an awareness that Watson cannot individually obtain insight from scanning medical literature also couldn’t mine information from patients’ electronic health records.

The most undermining flaw was that it couldn’t compare a new patient with the other cancer patients, who had come before to uncover hidden patterns.

As per Anecdotal reports, IBM had trouble selling its Watson oncology product in the US.

Some oncologists say they trust their judgment, and some say it suggests only standard treatments.

Although, Kris says some physicians are finding it useful for the second opinion.

IBM sales representatives were able to sell it in hospitals in India, South Korea, Thailand and other countries.

In India, the physicians (Manipal Comprehensive Cancer Center) assessed Watson’s recommendations of the 638 breast cancer cases. There was a 73% rate of concordance in treatment advice.

Doctors also shared that Watson wasn’t suggesting certain standard drugs with older patients and had a bug causing it to advise monitoring instead of aggressive treatment with metastatic cancer.

There is no research showing the benefits of Watson.

Image Source: Freepik



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