Head of IBM Watson Health Steps Down, STAT Reports

Oct. 22, 2018
The head of IBM Watson Health, Deborah DiSanzo, is leaving her role, STAT News reported late last week.

The head of IBM Watson Health, Deborah DiSanzo, is leaving her role, STAT News reported late last week.

According to the report, “The circumstances of DiSanzo’s departure were unclear, but Watson Health has been seeking to rebound after a series of stumbles. IBM executives have said they have bet much of the company’s future on its success in healthcare, and improving Watson Health’s standing in the industry is seen as crucial to that effort.”

IBM Watson, an artificial intelligence supercomputer, was launched into the world of healthcare just a few years after it won in Jeopardy! against record-setting champions in 2011. Watson Health, a unit of IBM, was launched at the 2015 HIMSS conference and employs thousands of people.

DiSanzo was brought into the company in 2015 to be the general manager of Watson Health, and according to the STAT report, will be succeeded by John Kelly, senior vice president for Cognitive Solutions and IBM Research, who will step into DiSanzo’s role in an acting capacity, current and former employees told STAT.

Along with the popularity of Watson has come intense scrutiny, especially in the last year. As Healthcare Informatics covered in one of its Top Ten Tech Trends this year, it was a STAT News report from September 2017 that became one of the first major stories detailing how Watson has been performing in hospitals, specifically examining the company’s Watson for Oncology solution.

That piece found that Watson for Oncology has struggled in several key areas, noting that while IBM sales executives say that Watson for Oncology possesses the ability to identify new approaches to cancer care, in reality, “the system doesn’t create new knowledge and is artificially intelligent only in the most rudimentary sense of the term.” And a more recent report, also from STAT, included internal documents from IBM Watson Health which indicated that the Watson for Oncology product often returns “multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations.”

Last week, IBM also released third-quarter earnings, which showed that revenue from cognitive offerings, like Watson, was down 6 percent from last year, according to the STAT report. To this point, reports surfaced this spring that some IBM Watson Health units were experiencing significant layoffs. IBM officials have maintained that things are not as bad as has been reported, while attesting that its artificial intelligence remain quite popular worldwide.

According to this latest STAT report, “Watson Health has sought to shift its focus in recent months, scaling back a part of the business that sells tools to hospitals to help manage their pay-for-performance contracts. Following layoffs In June, DiSanzo sought to reassure employees that the company was on the right track,” the report noted.

Sponsored Recommendations

Trailblazing Technologies: Looking at the Top Technologies for the Emerging U.S. Healthcare System

Register for the first session of the Healthcare Innovation Spotlight Series today to learn more about 'Healthcare's New Promise: Generative AI', the latest technology that is...

Data: The Bedrock of Digital Engagement

Join us on March 21st to discover how data serves as the cornerstone of digital engagement in healthcare. Learn from Frederick Health's transformative journey and gain practical...

Northeast Georgia Health System: Scaling Digital Transformation in a Competitive Market

Find out how Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) enabled digital access to achieve new patient acquisition goals in Georgia's highly competitive healthcare market.

2023 Care Access Benchmark Report for Healthcare Organizations

To manage growing consumer expectations and shrinking staff resources, forward-thinking healthcare organizations have adopted digital strategies, but recent research shows that...