February 14, 2019 — IBM Watson Health announced plans to make a 10-year, $50 million investment in research collaborations with two separate academic centers - Brigham and Women's Hospital, which is a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center - to advance the science of artificial intelligence (AI) and its application to major public health issues.
The scientific collaborations with each institution will focus on critical health problems that are ideally suited for AI solutions. Initial areas of study are expected to include the use of AI to improve the utility of electronic health records (EHRs) and claims data to address significant public health issues like patient safety, precision medicine and health equity. The research will also explore physician and patient user experience and interactions with AI technologies.
IBM Watson Health Vice President and Chief Health Officer Kyu Rhee, M.D., MPP, noted that physicians today are spending an average of two hours with their EHRs and deskwork for every hour of patient care, which the American Medical Association says is leading to a steady increase in physician burnout. Rhee said AI is the most powerful technology available today to tackle issues like this one.
Drawing on the respective areas of expertise from each organization, the collaborations will be a joint effort among:
- IBM Watson Health's newly appointed vice president and chief science officer, Gretchen Purcell Jackson, M.D., Ph.D.;
- David Bates, M.D., MS, chief of general internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School;
- Kevin Johnson, M.D., MS, chair of the department of biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and
- Gordon Bernard, M.D., executive vice president for research, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
"We all know that the future of health belongs to AI but today health around the globe is siloed and not actionable, making timely insights difficult to obtain," explained Bates. "Through AI, we have an opportunity to do better, and our hope is to find new ways through science and partnerships with industry leaders like Watson Health to unlock the full potential of AI to improve the utility of the EHR and claims data to address major public health issues like patient safety."
Johnson added: "I have committed my career to using health information technologies to deliver precision medicine, promote health equity, and understand the human-machine interface and opportunities to improve public health. As the largest biomedical informatics department in the U.S., we have been a longstanding leader in understanding the role and potential of new technologies like AI. We are excited to work with a leader like IBM Watson Health and we look forward to expanding the relationship as Watson Health continues to grow."
For more information: www.ibm.com
 American Medical Association and Electronic Medical Records: https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/digital/improving-electronic-health-records
 EMR + Claims data and the Longitudinal Health Record: https://www.ibm.com/blogs/watson-health/using-ehr-population-health-whats-missing/
 World Health Organization and Patient Safety: https://www.who.int/patientsafety/en/; Crossing the Quality Chasm: http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Global/News%20Announcements/Crossing-the-Quality-Chasm-The-IOM-Health-Care-Quality-Initiative.aspx; Medical Errors are 3rd leading cause of death: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-america.html
 Centers for Disease Control and Precision Medicine: https://www.cdc.gov/features/precision-medicine/index.html; Precision Medicine in Cancer Treatment: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/precision-medicine; Vanderbilt Precision Medicine Initiative: https://www.vumc.org/cpm/
 World Health Organization and Health Equity: https://www.who.int/topics/health_equity/en/, https://www.who.int/healthsystems/topics/equity/en/; American Public Health Association and Health Equity: https://www.apha.org/topics-and-issues/health-equity