IBM appoints panel to steer application of Watson technology in healthcare

With the help of healthcare industry experts, IBM will pursue medical applications for Watson, the company’s advanced analytical computing system. IBM has convened the Watson Healthcare Advisory Board, whose members include leaders with expertise in areas such as primary care, oncology and biomedical informatics. Officials said the board would provide IBM with insights on healthcare issues that could be positively impacted by Watson.

Watson is capable of extracting medical facts and quickly understanding relationships buried in large volumes of data – from EMRs, family medical history and troves of clinical research. The technology can help accelerate and improve clinical decisions, reduce operational waste and enhance patient outcomes, officials said.

The advisory panel will specifically focus on medical industry trends, clinical imperatives, regulatory considerations, privacy concerns, and patient and clinician expectations around Watson technology and how it can be incorporated into clinician workflows, officials explained. The initial nine-member board represents organizations in various areas of healthcare delivery:

  • Charles Barnett, Ascension Health. Since 1993, Barnett led the Seton Healthcare Family, an Ascension Health ministry, in serving the healthcare needs of 1.9 million Central Texas residents in 11 counties. Barnett now oversees Ascension Health operations nationwide.
  • Michael Barr, MD, American College of Physicians. Barr is responsible for promoting best practices according to the principles of patient-centered care and professionalism through the development of innovative products and services, quality improvement programs and educational initiatives for internists and other healthcare professionals. (Barr also serves on the editorial advisory board of PhysBizTech.)
  • Herbert Chase, MD, Columbia University. A professor of clinical medicine in Biomedical Informatics, Chase has collaborated with IBM Research on the Watson technology and related use cases in healthcare. His research includes decision support tools for diagnosis and management of chronic kidney disease. He continues to develop new medical educational programs and is implementing a four-year curriculum in medical decision-making.
  • Lynda Chin, MD, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Actively involved in the Cancer Genome Atlas and the International Cancer Genome Consortium, Chin is a recognized leader in the translation of the cancer genome.  She is interested in using cutting-edge information technology and computational biology to accelerate the conversion of cancer genomic insights into tangible endpoints that impact patient outcome in the clinics.
  • Chris Coburn, Cleveland Clinic. As executive director of innovation, Coburn has built a team of nearly three dozen professionals in collaboration with some of the nation’s top venture capitalists.
  • Douglas Henley, MD, American Academy of Family Physicians. Henley works with the AAFP board of directors on the mission, strategy and vision of the organization and provides representation to others from the medical, public and private sectors.
  • Michael K. Magill, MD, University of Utah School of Medicine. For 13 years Magill has held leadership roles in the University’s Community Clinics, in which he leads transformation of primary care delivery under a model of Patient Centered Medical Homes known as Care by Design.
  • Steven Shapiro, MD, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. As chief medical and scientific officer, Shapiro’s primary focus is working with his colleagues across UPMC and the School of Medicine to develop improved models of clinical care based upon “good science” and “smart technology.”
  • David R. Spriggs, MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Heading the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology at Sloan-Kettering, Spriggs leads its program in early drug development, testing new, targeted drugs in clinical trials. He leads a research laboratory examining the biology and novel drug treatment of ovarian cancer and how genes can affect the development of tumors. In his practice as a medical oncologist he takes care of patients with gynecological malignancies.

“Watson represents a technology breakthrough that can help physicians improve patient outcomes," said Chase, of Columbia. "As IBM focuses its efforts on key areas including oncology, cardiology and chronic diseases, the advisory board will be integral to helping align the business strategy to the specific needs of the industry."

The recommendations of the Watson Healthcare Advisory Board will be shared with IBM clients and used by IBM’s global team of healthcare industry professionals. That group of more than 4,000 professionals and 60 medical doctors is working with clients to create smarter healthcare systems, focused on the patient, aimed at reducing medical errors, achieving better patient safety and quality outcomes and saving lives, according to the company. IBM has undertaken more than 3,000 healthcare transformation projects around the world from small hospitals to national healthcare systems.

"The depth of leadership, talent and experience represented on the Watson Healthcare Advisory Board will be instrumental to advancing how IBM Watson technology is put to work in the healthcare industry,“ said Manoj Saxena, general manager of IBM Watson Solutions. "IBM's Watson technology has the potential to profoundly impact the quality of patient care by fundamentally transforming how medicine is taught, paid for and practiced.”

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