STAT: Why are hospitals deploying Watson? To boost reputation

Healthcare providers have mixed opinions on whether Watson for Oncology is a worthwhile investment for clinical decision support. However, hospitals across the globe may purchase the platform to up their reputation, according to an analysis by STAT writers Ike Swetlitz and Casey Ross.

Watson for Oncology is a cloud-based clinical decision support platform that advertises its ability to identify relevant treatment options and administration instructions to personalize care for individual cancer patients. However, no independent, third-party investigations into the technology exist, and providers have mixed reactions to its recommendations.

One reason hospitals still express interest in the technology involves marketing, according to the authors. At Jupiter (Fla.) Medical Center, for example, officials ran a TV commercial about the artificial intelligence platform, with a narrator specifying it was the "first regional medical center in the country to adopt IBM Watson for Oncology."

"They know that being associated with IBM and artificial intelligence will help their hospitals' reputations," Mr. Swetlitz and Mr. Ross wrote. In the few months since the ad went public, roughly three dozen people have called Jupiter Medical Center to ask about Watson for Oncology, Kathleen Ahern, the hospital's director of marketing, told the authors.

Bangkok-based Bumrungrad International Hospital, the first hospital to sign an agreement to implement Watson for Oncology in 2014, echoed a similar statement. "One of the many reasons for the hospital to adopt this system is [that] we'd like to project an image … as technically advanced," Nan Chen, senior director for research and development and clinical data at the hospital, told the authors.

Mr. Chen said the majority of the oncologists at Bumrungrad International Hospital already know the information Watson for Oncology provides, although it's a helpful technology for those with less training. He also emphasized the hospital is the first to treat a patient using Watson for Oncology. "We sort of have a bragging right," he said, according to Mr. Swetlitz and Mr. Ross.

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