$25 million gift from IBM Watson Health sparks AI solutions

$25 million gift from IBM Watson Health sparks AI solutions

Leading this collaborative effort at the Brigham, David Bates, MD, MPH, is a global expert in patient safety and information technology approaches to improve patient care.


“This extraordinary investment, in both philanthropy and expertise, makes a great difference in our ability to unlock the full potential of AI to address major public health issues.”
DAVID BATES, MD, MS


Beginning in 2020, the volume of medical data is expected to double every 73 days. For clinicians and healthcare scientists, making sense of this exploding universe of data can feel like an insurmountable task.

Seeing vast potential in harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to address these concerns and improve care, IBM Watson Health recently committed $25 million to support a 10-year research collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The Brigham—chosen for its internationally renowned expertise in patient safety and innovation—will work with IBM Watson Health to advance the science of applying AI to healthcare challenges. Their first steps will focus on patient safety and the patient experience, using AI technologies to better utilize electronic health records and claims data and improve health team workflow.

“This commitment from IBM Watson Health is tremendous,” says Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD. “Applying AI to healthcare is one of our key focus areas, and we look forward to leveraging these powerful tools across our clinics and laboratories in the coming decade.”

Leading the project for the Brigham is David Bates, MD, MS, chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and a global leader in patient safety and information technology approaches to improve patient care. He says the union of IBM’s industry leadership and the Brigham’s clinical expertise holds many possibilities.

Bates says, “This extraordinary investment, in both philanthropy and expertise, makes a great difference in our ability to unlock the full potential of AI to address major public health issues.”

Gretchen Purcell Jackson, MD, PhD, vice president and chief science officer at IBM Watson Health, says, “As a practicing surgeon, I often had to make critical decisions about children’s lives without time to dig for information buried in electronic health records or sift through thousands of studies in the literature. Our collaboration will create new insights that affect many health stakeholders: providers, payers, governments, life science companies, and, ultimately, the most important stakeholder, patients.”

The two organizations also see opportunities to reduce medical paperwork. According to the American Medical Association, physicians spend an average of two hours with electronic health records and deskwork for every hour of patient care, which is leading to a steady increase in physician burnout.

“AI is the most powerful technology we have today to tackle issues like this one,” says Kyu Rhee, MD, MPP, vice president and chief health officer at IBM Watson Health.

Bates adds, “We all know the future of health belongs to AI, but health information is siloed, making timely insights difficult to obtain. AI gives us an opportunity to do better.”­