IBM's $1B Medical Imaging Buy Lets Watson 'See'
IBM plans to buy Merge Healthcare for $1 billion to add medical imaging to the list of Watson's capabilities.IBM announced that its Watson cognitive computing system will gain the ability to "see" by bringing together Watson's image analytics capabilities with data and images obtained from Merge Healthcare's medical imaging management platform. In addition, IBM said it plans to acquire Merge in a deal worth $1 billion. Merge is a provider of medical image handling and processing services and clinical systems. With the acquisition, IBM claims it will advance health care quality and efficiency by unlocking the value of medical images to help physicians make better patient care decisions. More than 7,500 U.S. health care sites use Merge's technology. IBM's vision is that these organizations could use the Watson Health Cloud to surface new insights from a consolidated, patient-centric view of current and historical images, electronic health records, data from wearable devices and other related medical data. "As a proven leader in delivering healthcare solutions for over 20 years, Merge is a tremendous addition to the Watson Health platform," said John Kelly, senior vice president of IBM Research and Solutions Portfolio, in a statement. "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. Watson's powerful cognitive and analytic capabilities, coupled with those from Merge and our other major strategic acquisitions, position IBM to partner with healthcare providers, research institutions, biomedical companies, insurers and other organizations committed to changing the very nature of health and healthcare in the 21st century. Giving Watson 'eyes' on medical images unlocks entirely new possibilities for the industry."
IBM plans to use the Watson Health Cloud to analyze and cross-reference medical images against a massive amount of lab results, electronic health records, genomic tests, clinical studies and other health-related data sources, which already represents 315 billion data points and 90 million unique records, IBM said. Merge clients could compare new medical images with a patient's image history as well as populations of similar patients to detect changes and anomalies. Insights generated by Watson could then help health care providers in fields including radiology, cardiology, orthopedics and ophthalmology to pursue more personalized approaches to diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients.