RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Responding to recent critical reports in the media, including a story from The Wall Street Journal, about Watson Health at IBM, Big Blue is offering a spirited response through blog posts..

Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM’s Senior Vice President, Cognitive Solutions and IBM Research, said the Journal and “some media reports” had distorted and ignored “facts” about Watson Health. The artificial intelligence-driven program in which the tech giant has invested heavily as a core element in Chairman and CEO Ginny Rometty’s strategy for the company’s future.

His post followed an earlier one by Watson Health General Manager Deborah DiSanzo after a series of critical articles published earlier this month by media news website STAT.

In the post headlined “Watson Health: Setting the Record Straight,” Kelly wrote:

“Unfortunately, some media reports, including an August 11th story published by The Wall Street Journal, distort and ignore facts when suggesting IBM has not made ‘enough’ progress on bringing the benefits of AI to healthcare.  I feel it is imperative to set the record straight.

“First, let’s level set.  It is true, as the article reports, that we at IBM have placed a big bet on healthcare.  We have done this for two reasons: 1) Most importantly, we know that AI can make a big difference in solving medical challenges and supporting the work of the healthcare industry, and 2) We see an enormous business opportunity in this area as the adoption of AI increases.”

Watson dilemma?

The Journal as well as the the medical news site STAT have criticized Watson Health.

On Monday, The Journal reported that “IBM Has a Watson Dilemma.”

“More than a dozen IBM partners and clients have halted or shrunk Watson’s oncology-related projects,” The Journal said.

“Watson cancer applications have had limited impact on patients, according to dozens of interviews with medical centers, companies and doctors who have used it, as well as documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.”

The story followed earlier reports from STAT that questioned the effectiveness of the Watson program.

On July 25, STAT reported: “IBM’s Watson supercomputer recommended ‘unsafe and incorrect’ cancer treatments, internal documents show.”

Citing internal IBM documents, STAT reported “Watson supercomputer often spit out erroneous cancer treatment advice and that company medical specialists and customers identified ‘multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations’ as IBM was promoting the product to hospitals and physicians around the world.”

DiSanzo responded: “If you only read certain media reports recently, you would have an incomplete and inaccurate perspective, especially as it relates to our Watson for Oncology product.”

Kelly also defended its cancer work.

“To suggest there has been no patient benefit is to ignore both what we know The Wall Street Journal was told by a number of physicians around the world and these institutions’ own public comments,” Kelly wrote. He then cited several examples of Watson-related efforts.

“We are working closely with premier cancer institutes like Memorial Sloan Kettering and Mayo Clinic to evolve and refine these tools,” he said. “Together they are now in use at 230 hospitals and health organizations globally and have nearly doubled the number of patients they’ve reached in the first six months of the year to 84,000.”

Read the full IBM blog from Kelly online.

The DiSanzo post is available as well online.

IBM operates one of its largest corporate campuses in RTP and employs several thousand people across North Carolina.