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Layoffs, Internal Tensions: IBM Watson Health Is In Turmoil


The weather is not looking good for Watson Health, IBM’s cloud-based solution for the medical world. After a Register article revealing major layoffs in the United States, the Statnews media publishes a survey that reveals more fundamental difficulties to exploit the medical data that the company has acquired through several redemptions.

The medical field is one of those for which the use of artificial intelligence is the most promising. All technology giants are interested, and IBM has sought to establish itself very early by creating a dedicated division: Watson Health. An ambitious goal is failure for Big Blue. An article in the Register, dated May 25, revealed layoffs that would affect between 50% and 70% of the payroll of IBM Watson Health in the United States (IBM did not release official figures). And the problem would be deeper than a simple difficulty in seizing the market.


In fact, to build this division, IBM has spent billions of dollars to acquire several companies (including Phytel, Explorys, Truven and Merge Healthcare) with vast amounts of medical data. The idea was to consolidate this information and use it to enrich the capabilities of its artificial intelligence solution, and then offer the services to hospitals and other health organizations. But things did not go as planned, according to reports by the specialized media Statnews.


According to the testimonies of several former employees, Watson Health would have had persistent difficulties to produce marketable solutions from these masses of data. The very merger of these different databases into a single source in a format exploitable by Watson would not have been completed. As a result, the company not only struggled to acquire new customers, but would also be losing some of the contracts it had already signed. Statnews notes that one of the most affected products would be Watson for Oncology, designed to help treat cancers.

These difficulties raise the question of the ability of the major cloud players as a whole to create real value for the medical sector (which brings together hundreds of very different business disciplines) simply by aggregating data.

Update June 12: In response to a request for comment on this case, IBM sent us the following statement by email. “Watson Health is a growing business and we are proud to serve more than 13,000 customers worldwide, with hundreds of new hires this year, we continue to invest in our talent and technology as we reposition our teams to Focusing on growth opportunities in the healthcare industry A growing number of studies highlight the value of Watson Health technologies. “


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