IBM’s $1 Billion Acquisition to Give Watson Sight

Chris Newmarker

August 6, 2015

2 Min Read
IBM’s $1 Billion Acquisition to Give Watson Sight

The purchase of Merge Healthcare will allow IBM to apply Watson's advanced analytics to medical imaging.

Chris Newmarker

IBM is boasting that it is giving its supercomputer Watson the ability to "see" through IBM's planned $1 billion acquisition of Merge Healthcare.

The acquisition--subject to regulatory review, Merge shareholder approval, and other customary closing conditions--is expected to close later this year, IBM said Thursday.

Chicago-based Merge Healthcare's medical imaging management platform is used at more than 7500 U.S. healthcare sites, as well as many of the world's  leading clinical research institutes and pharmaceutical firms.

The goal at IBM (Armonk, NY) is to enable Merge's customers to use the Watson Health Cloud to to analyze and cross-reference medical images against a deep trove of lab results, electronic health records, genomic tests, clinical studies, and other health-related data sources. IBM officials think there is a desire in the healthcare field for such imaging analytics. According to IBM, radiologists in some hospital emergency rooms are presented with as many as 100,000 images a day.

This is the third (and largest) health-related acquisition IBM has made since launching its Watson Health unit in April. IBM in recent months has also announced that it is buying Phytel (population health) and Explorys (cloud based healthcare intelligence).

IBM in April also announced Watson-related health technology partnerships with Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, and Apple.

"Healthcare will be one of IBM's biggest growth areas over the next 10 years, which is why  we are making a major investment to drive industry transformation and to facilitate a higher quality of care," John Kelly, senior vice president of the IBM Research and Solutions Portfolio, said in a news release. "

"Giving Watson 'eyes' on medical images unlocks entirely new possibilities for the industry," Kelly said.

Michael W. Ferro Jr., Merge's chairman, described the deal as representing the future of healthcare technology. "Together, we will unlock unprecedented new opportunities to improve patient diagnostics and deliver enhanced care."

Chris Newmarker is senior editor of Qmed and MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @newmarker.

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