Where did IBM go wrong with Watson Health?

The failure of IBM’s Watson Health gives us some useful lessons about the immaturity of largescale deployment of AI and the challenges of getting carried away by the excitement of digital technology and taking your eye off some of the fundamental questions: What problem does it solve for users? What are the broader implications of moving to digital and automated solutions in health? How does it change the relationship between experts and their clients? What barriers to adoption need to be overcome to scale these solutions? Sounds like a mandate for the DIGIT Lab to me!


IBM spent more than a decade trying to make a go of Watson Health, its moonshot to apply artificial intelligence in healthcare. Watson was supposed to revolutionize everything from diagnosing patients and recommending treatment options to finding candidates for clinical trials.

Now, after billions invested and a series of high-profile setbacks, the company is effectively selling Watson for parts to private equity firm Francisco Partners.