IBM's Watson slow to convert knowledge into dollars and cents

IBM's Watson technology is struggling to meet lofty company projections for generated revenue, according to a new Wall Street Journal report. Stumbles associated with high-profile health industry projects are among several reasons Watson--projected to bring in revenue upward of $1 billion annually by 2018--had generated total revenue of less than $100 million as of October 2013.

At the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, for instance, a project centered on improving leukemia treatment through medical literature mining was described as being "in a ditch" early last year by one IBM executive. According to WSJ, doctors at the Houston-based facility and IBM engineers did not understand each other's needs, and initially only collaborated in person sporadically.

While those efforts were described by Lynda Chin, M.D., Anderson's chairwoman of genomic medicine, as back on track, they represent the largest Watson deal at close to $15 million, according to WSJ; IBM executives hope the project could ultimately be worth $100 million.

Meanwhile, health insurer WellPoint is using Watson to speed pre-approval processes for patients. While WellPoint Vice President Elizabeth Bigham told WSJ that using Watson "has become part of the way we do business," initially, Watson struggled to learn health payer's policies.

The Cleveland Clinic began working with IBM on the technology in the fall of 2012 to improve medical school training. Last fall, Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University and IBM Research also announced a collaboration to offer doctors real-time analysis of patient records to improve care.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is using a cloud-based version of Watson technology to enable clinicians to provide personalized treatments to patients.

Watson made its first public appearance in February 2011 on the game show "Jeopardy," where it defeated two of the program's most heralded champions: Ken Jennings, who in 2004 won 74 consecutive games, and Brad Rutter, who holds Jeopardy's all-time record for money earned with more than $3 million.

For more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article


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