Artificial Intelligence

Do Doctors Fear AI? Not the Hundreds I Work with Around the World

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Headlines abound about doctors cowering from AI. The reality: not so much.

I’m a physician, and don’t think that’s a realistic concern. Rather, I envision a future in which AI-enabled insights help health and medical experts deliver patient-centered, personalized, value-based care. The future is here. For those of us at IBM, we are augmenting experts’ ability to serve patients across the globe – unifying the benefits of man + machine.

And I’m not alone.

What headlines often miss is the fact that doctors are steadily joining the ranks of clinicians who study, understand, and advance AI for both the prevention and treatment of disease. Doctors from academia, integrated health networks, community hospitals and physicians’ offices. Some work from universities and think tanks. Others have joined the increasing number of us in industry.

Watson Health Advisory Boards and Clinical Teams Shape How AI Helps Physicians and Patients

Forty-two clinical and health experts have joined me on the Watson Health team to shape how AI will benefit physicians and patients, and we are part of a broader IBM clinical community that engages with key clinical and health leaders worldwide in a variety of ways. One example is advisory boards that address value-based care, imaging, oncology, and life sciences. These advisory boards are comprised of experts from across the global health ecosystem, representing a variety of clinical specialties and an array of perspectives. We count on these advisors for their insight about the daily practice of health and medicine around the world, recommendations on the use of Watson across specialties and points of care, and to help us shape the direction of our research, investments, and offerings.

For example, oncology advisory board members – such as Dr. Skip Trump, CEO and executive director of the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, Dr. Michael Seiden, chief medical officer of McKesson Specialty Health and the US Oncology Network, and Dr. Nicholas Petrelli, Medical Director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care Health System – bring decades of experience in cancer care, research and education programs. The board’s work complements the work done by medical experts that help prepare and instruct Watson for use in a clinical setting and provide feedback from Watson’s use in frontline clinical settings.  Watson for Oncology, for example, is trained by doctors at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and now deployed for use at more than 60 hospitals in 13 countries across the globe.

In addition to offering clinical expertise, advisory board members are invited to be candid about the strengths and weaknesses of AI today, its value to medicine, and how it needs to advance. As a practicing primary care physician and health policymaker, who has seen first-hand how this technology is starting to improve decision-making and change lives, I know that this type of feedback is vital to ensure the needs of clinical teams and patients are met now, and well into the future.

Our advisory boards complement the clinical, health services, and health systems expertise that we have on the team at IBM and Watson Health. We have over 50 physicians on staff and more than 200 nurses, pharmacists, social workers and other healthcare professionals, who have served patients firsthand, know the industry, and can help train and implement these systems effectively and efficiently.

This group includes physician health officers that hail from diverse backgrounds like Dr. Anil Jain, Dr. Paul Tang, Dr. Paul Grundy, Dr. Michael Weiner, Dr. Lisa Latts, Dr. Irene Dankwa Mullan, and Dr. William Kassler. It includes pharmacists like Dr. Tina Moen and nurses like Judy Murphy. It includes an amazing team of oncologists like Dr. CK Wang, Dr. Aradhana Ghosh, and Dr. Jeffrey Lenert. Watson clinical experts, together with advisory board members and others, work across the business, enhanced by data scientists, engineers, epidemiologists, economists and other specialists steeped in the industry.

AI Is Larger Than One Engineer, Physician, or An Algorithm. It Requires Collaboration

It’s fairly well understood by now that no doctor can keep up with the mountains of new medical knowledge published each year, and no doctor or her team can sort through the incredible amount of health data created during each doctor’s visit to efficiently find patterns that can drive more informed medical decisions and enable personalized care.

AI is larger than one engineer or algorithm, and achieving health transformation is bigger than one doctor or company. IBM Watson Health will continue to work with clinical communities to advance cognitive technology as clinicians aim to improve the value of care in the U.S. and globally. No one is better equipped to shape how AI technology can and should be used on the front lines of care delivery than the clinicians striving to make patient-centered, personalized, value-based care a reality.

I understand that change is hard, and that many of my colleagues may fear the unknown future that AI brings. I believe that AI is primed to improve the care that clinicians provide to patients and streamline workflow so we can spend more time doing what we love best – working with patients. We have some great doctors working with talented engineers to build the future, and I can’t wait for it to get here. I’m eager to hear your take on clinicians working with AI, so please reach out and let me know.

Steven Strongwater

Dr. Rhee, thank you for this timely and insightful blog. Like you, we see a future enhanced by AI, greatly enhancing early clinical diagnostic opportunities, improving care reliability and enabling risk predictions. The ability to effortlessly assemble large amounts of data will lead to new insights that will impact clinicians, patients, researchers and perhaps policy makers. Thank you and IBM Watson for your leadership in this important field.

Andrew Salner, MD

I am also privileged to be a member of the advisory board of Watson Oncology. I see AI as a natural extension of knowledge we have always sought to improve the care for our patients. This started with a search for literature in our hospital library’s card catalog (remember those!), to online pubmed searches, to the management of huge amounts of knowledge through an organized approach designed by very smart and thoughtful experts whose goal is to deliver timely, accurate, pertinent, actionable information.

Stephen Klasko

Thanks Kyu. We have every opportunity to be human, to offer meaning, to heal – while embracing augmented intelligence. We need to stop selecting and teaching for memorization and maximize AI analytics, robotics and the computer concierge.

Nicholas Petrelli,MD

As a member of the Advisory Board it is important to know the capabilities of AI and to push toward timely data collection with consistent quality in order to bring high quality care to patients.


Well said, such an informative article.
Thanks for sharing this.


Like other things, AI has both advantages and disadvantages. Artificial Intelligence is good in some areas. It has some disadvantages also. We have to carefully this.

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