Although IBM has made no official announcement, several news reports and social media posts described significant layoffs at IBM Watson Health units on May 24.
For instance, a May 25 story in Crain’s Cleveland Business quoted one former employee of IBM Watson’s Cleveland office as saying that “dozens of local employees” at the unit previously known as Explorys. That company, a Cleveland Clinic spinoff, was acquired by IBM in 2015. The report also noted that the Cleveland Watson Health unit plans to move from its headquarters in downtown Cleveland to a newly constructed facility near Cleveland Clinic.
A story on WRAL Techwire, a technology news publication covering the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, wrote that the IBM Watson Health group there was also impacted. “Lots of Truven folks in RTP laid off today,” one employee noted on a Facebook page devoted to coverage of IBM workforce issues. WRAL noted that “Truven refers to a health data analytics company that IBM acquired in 2016 for $2.6 billion. Truven, which was based in Michigan, had operations in Durham that were acquired as part of the deal.”
CHANNELe2e, a news and research sites for cloud services providers, resellers, integrators and channel partners, noted that besides Truven, there were layoffs at medical imaging firm Merge, which IBM bought in 2015 for $1 billion; and healthcare management business Phytel, also purchased in 2015.
On Twitter, health IT officials and clinicians responded to the news reports. “Turns out that healthcare is complicated. And combining medicine, math, and computing to produce breakthroughs is hard. Still someone will do it. Just not IBM right now,” tweeted Harlan Krumholz, M.D., a cardiologist and healthcare researcher at Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
It should be noted that IBM officials told MD+DI (a publication for the medical device and diagnostics industry) that the volume of layoffs are not as severe as some are making them out to be. According to the report, an IBM spokesperson said, "IBM is continuing to reposition our team to align with our focus on the high-value segments of the IT market. We continue to hire aggressively in critical new areas that deliver value for our clients and IBM," adding “"We're not discussing specific numbers. It's a small percentage of our global Watson Health workforce, as we move to more technology-intensive offerings, simplified processes, and automation to drive speed."
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