HIMSS 2017: IBM Watson announces new partnerships—but may lose MD Anderson

IBM has announced several expansions and partnerships centered on its Watson cognitive computing system solutions. At the same time, however, the Watson-powered oncology product being developed at MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas has reportedly been placed on hold.

Ahead of IBM President and CEO Ginni Rometty’s speech on the “cognitive era” at HIMSS 2017, the company released several press releases announcing a variety of new Watson products and partnerships.

Among the new offerings: its first cognitive imaging platform, which “reviews medical data including images to help healthcare providers identify the most critical cases that require attention.” IBM said it will first be used for aortic stenosis (AS), citing findings that its Watson Clinical Imaging Review platform helped hospitals identify potential AS patients that traditional care had missed.

Also announced were upcoming Waston-based applications for value-based care, including programs for measuring provider performance, creating risk stratification for a hospital’s patient population and forecasting tools to manage bundled payments.

“Healthcare organizations are operating in a complex and fluctuating business environment, one in which the insights they need to succeed can be hidden amid an avalanche of disparate and siloed data,” Deborah DiSanzo, general manager of IBM Watson Health, said in a statement. “Watson Health’s extensive industry expertise informs how we deploy data, cloud and cognitive computing to help clients make more informed decisions today and understand precisely what their organization should address to achieve their quality care goals and outcomes in a value-based care system.”

IBM also announced a number of new collaborations: 24 organizations were added to its imaging project, and it will partner with Atrius Health on a new cloud-based service centered on social determinants of health.

In a separate population health effort, Watson will be connected to more than acute care, behavioral and primary care data from more than 2,000 providers and 75 EHR systems in New York. The goal will be to “costs in the Medicaid system by decreasing the amount of avoidable emergency department visits and hospital readmissions by 25 percent over the course of the program.”

However, a story in Forbes suggested IBM may be losing one of its biggest Watson partners. MD Anderson said its halted work on a cancer project, the Oncology Expert Advisor, after incurring more than $62 million in costs for the public university without meeting its goals.

“When it was appropriate to do so, the project was placed on hold,” an MD Anderson spokesperson said to Forbes. “As a public institution, we decided to go out to the marketplace for competitive bids to see where the industry has progressed.”

Rometty didn’t mention the MD Anderson project in her speech at HIMSS, instead focusing on other Watson-related efforts in oncology. She mentioned how at University of North Carolina’s Lineburger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Watson AI made the same recommendations as physicians 99 percent of the time, but also found more clinically actionable data.

“Moonshots were made to be landed,” Rometty said.