IBM CEO: Watson has not failed

IBM Watson Health is still a "very important part" of IBM's business, despite a recent leadership shake up in its health division and criticism of its artificial intelligence-powered cancer treatment tool, CEO Ginni Rometty told STAT in an interview Jan. 8.

"Watson for Oncology is doing very well — very well," Ms. Rometty told STAT during a photo opportunity at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where she delivered a keynote address. STAT has requested interviews with Ms. Rometty and other company executives for months with no success.

In 2018, STAT reported several controversies involving IBM's health division, including one of its physician customers calling Watson for Oncology a "piece of sh–," and numerous employee layoffs. A key complaint about Watson for Oncology, which offers cancer treatment recommendations, is that it's biased toward American treatment methods. However, IBM said it plans to add regional treatment guidelines to Watson for Oncology, as well as real-world data on patient outcomes, to boost user satisfaction.

Although Ms. Rometty didn't discuss Watson Health much during her CES keynote, according to STAT, she debuted a fingertip sensor that may help Parkinson's patients and announced a new partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Ms. Rometty also reportedly emphasized the need for trust and transparency when it comes to AI, regardless of which industry it's applied to.

"To be trusted, that means you have to prepare society for whatever set of technologies it is that are coming on, in particular now so that no one is left behind," she said.

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