Cognitive Computing

Empowering Heroes Means Enabling Humanistic Health Care

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At IBM Watson Health, our stated goal is “Empowering Heroes, Transforming Health.” We help empower heroes by creating technology designed to enhance their abilities to make the essential connections that transform health. Among those connections – the human-to-human connection between healthcare provider and patient.

That is why I am proud that IBM Watson Health is a founding member of the Gold Corporate Council. The Council supports the work of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, which champions humanism in medicine.

Humanism recognizes compassion, collaboration and scientific excellence as central to the optimal patient-provider partnership, the experience of care and lower healthcare costs. Active listening, two-way communication, empathy and a compassionate bedside manner, as well as engaging patients as key members of their own treatment team, are crucial elements of diagnosis and treatment.

The Gold Foundation is working to support new research to better understand the opportunity and impact of humanism on patient outcomes, but past studies show that these approaches can improve outcomes and patient satisfaction with care. For example:

  • Empathy from care providers was shown to lower patients’ anxiety and distress and delivers significantly better clinical outcomes.[i]
  • Physicians who receive high empathy scores were shown to significantly reduced rates of acute metabolic complications among their patients with diabetes.[ii]
  • When patients perceive clinicians as empathetic, the severity, duration and objective measures of the common cold can be reduced.[iii]

Through our collective reach, the Council aims to elevate the importance of compassion and empathy in healthcare. Our mission statement is this: “We will ignite conversation and action across the healthcare landscape and in our own organizations, among the patients, providers, payers and employees we serve. We support the foundation’s mission to protect the human connection in healthcare, and we look forward to helping the foundation expand and enhance programs for patients, students and residents, and healthcare professionals throughout their careers.”

The council members have also pledged to expand humanism in healthcare deeper within our own organizations. At IBM Watson Health, we will host an internal educational series, led by experts from the Gold Foundation, to ensure that our engineers and others keep the principles of humanistic care at the core of what we create.

To me, the alignment is clear between humanistic care and IBM Watson Health. Technology, when properly designed and implemented, should augment and enhance the clinician-patient relationship. That human-to-human connection provides the care in healthcare.

[i] DerksenF, BensingJ, Lagro-Janssen A. Effectiveness of empathy in general practice: A systematic review. Br J Gen Pract. 2013;63(606):e76-84

[ii] Del CanaleS et al. AcadMed. 2012;87(9):1243-1249

[iii] RakelD et al. Patient EducCouns. 2011;85(3):390-397.

For more information, read the Gold Corporate Council press release and this article in Modern Healthcare.


General Manager, Watson Health

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Watson is the only AI technology tackling a wide range of the world’s biggest healthcare challenges including cancer, diabetes, drug discovery and more. In oncology, Watson is at work supporting cancer care in more than 150 hospitals in 11 countries, and a large, growing body of evidence supports the use of Watson in healthcare. more