IBM Watson and the pet rock

Both fads? Maybe too soon to tell, but when IBM replaces their Watson CEO (Deborah DiSanzo) after 3 years, makes you want to go hmm. This week IBM announced earnings showing revenue from cognitive offerings, like Watson, was down 6% from last year. In May of 2018, IBM conducted some massive RA initiatives (resource allocation, aka layoffs) across their healthcare assets. The move comes at a time when Watson’s cancer treatment recommendations have fallen under industry scrutiny. Seems treating cancer is a tad more difficult than betting Ken Jennings at Jeopardy. There’ve been several stories about customers pulling back from Watson, so IBM fired back with a blog defending Watson and linking to content demonstrating Watson’s value. BTW, Gary Dahl invented the Pet Rock in 1975 and sold 1.5M at $4 each. The rocks cost one penny. Ahhh, profitability.

Watson answered the call

While Mr. Watson did answer Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone call, what we’re talking about here is IBM’s Watson. The Mayo Clinic recently released results from a study whereby Watson “in the 11 months after implementation, there was on average an 80% increase in enrollment to Mayo’s systemic therapy clinical trials for breast cancer.”  That’s a huge increase given that ~3-5% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials. There’s also a Mayo Clinic radio (yes, there is such a thing) podcast for your listening enjoyment. For those in the clinical development industry, this could be a substantial step in using technology to increase clinical trial participation rates. DYK that IBM’s Watson is named after their first CEO, industrialist Thomas J. Watson? You do now and you’re now less likely to lose on Jeopardy.

3. Once more unto the breach

While perhaps overshadowed by an exponentially larger data breach, the healthcare sector had to deal with its own data attack this week. Quest Diagnostics—a pharma service provider and owner of the MyQuest™ by Care360 personal health app—announced Monday that a third party had accessed user data of 34,000 patients using their app. The intrusion left users’ names, dates of birth, lab results and phone numbers exposed. You may have recently noticed Quest Diagnostics in the news for their IBM partnership using Watson to advance precision medicine in cancer treatment. We’re not saying that has anything to do with the breach, but that’s exactly the kind of info an amoral robot with a singular mission would need for its cause. Just sayin’.

5. Watson graduates from med school

Jeopardy champ slash chess master slash oncologist? In several Asian countries, Watson, the often anthropomorphized computer, is taking in the characteristics of specific oncology patients and recommending specific courses of treatment. After consuming (we refuse to say “reading”) millions of pages of medical text books and journal articles, Watson now advises on effective courses of cancer treatment for real live patients. Not that Watson’s advice is necessarily followed by the oncologists on staff but apparently they often agree. Can you imagine the argument that follows a disagreement between those two massive egos? One is a robot-like being, forged through years of hard work in a lab and the other is… well… a computer. Yeah, we went there.

1. Diabetes, my dear Watson

IBM’s Watson Health is quickly becoming a major player in the healthcare industry.  But what do they need in order to showcase Watson’s mega-thinking ability?  Data.  And who has this in abundance?  The American Diabetes Association, 66 years’ worth to be exact. These two have recently teamed up to begin training Watson to understand diabetes.  A major outcome of this partnership is the development of a cognitive app, called Sugarwise, which works with Medtronic’s insulin pumps to analyze glucose levels and automatically adjust the insulin dosage.  Here’s where Watson really shines: it has the ability to add these personalized treatments to the vast amount of patient records on file to create a go-to source to help researchers and doctors detect patterns and find new treatments.