IBM Watson Health invests $50m in academic collaborations

Brigham and Women's Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center will work closely with IBM Watson Health on the practical application of AI to improve care and enhance health team workflow


IBM Watson Health has announced it will invest $50m in research collaborations with two separate academic centers as part of a 10-year plan to advance AI science and its application to major public health issues.

The IBM business unit, which focuses on data-driven technology challenges in healthcare, will collaborate with Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Watson Health will collaborate with both institutions on critical health problems suited for AI solutions, with the initial areas of study expected to be focused on the use of AI to improve a number of vital healthcare utilities and practices including electronic health records (EHRs), claims data, patient safety, precision medicine and health equity.

According to Watson Health, the research will also look to explore physician and patient user experience and interactions with AI technologies.

Kyu Rhee, vice-president and chief health officer at IBM Watson Health, said: "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.

"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," Kyu Rhee continued. "By putting the full force of our clinical and research team together with two of the world's leading academic medical centers, we will dramatically accelerate the development of real-world AI solutions that improve workflow efficiencies and outcomes."

The collaborations will draw on each organization's respective areas of expertise, with IBM Watson Health's newly appointed vice-president and chief science officer, Gretchen Purcell Jackson, noting: "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 AI, clinical decision support and implementation science."

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