Health Science Technology

IBM Feeding Watson Via New $1 Billion Acquisition

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IBM acquires Merge Healthcare for $1 billion to merge into the Watson Healthcare Cloud.

For $1 billion, IBM will get Merge Healthcare’s medical imaging technology to incorporate into the Watson Healthcare Cloud.

IBM continues its quest to strengthen its Watson supercomputer. Merge Healthcare is a provider of medical imaging gear, and IBM plans to incorporate that technology into Watson.

Watson’s system is designed to analyze large volumes of data, interpret complex questions stated in natural language and provide answers to these questions based on available evidence.

Merge’s technology is used by more than 7,500 healthcare sites in the U.S., according to the Armonk, N.Y. based company.

Now all of Merge’s knowledge will be added to the Watson Health Cloud mix to provide “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, in a HIPAA-enabled environment,” according to IBM’s statement. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a regulation designed to protect patient data confidentiality.

IBM said that it plans to acquire images and data collected from Merge Healthcare’s own medical imaging management system and combine them with IBM Watson’s cloud-based health care computing program.

The new agreement between IBM and Merge Healthcare will allow researchers and physicians to collate and examine various data such as the family and medical history of a patient, data on other patients with similar symptoms of illness and clinical studies, trials and findings.

Brooks O’Neil, analyst for Dougherty and Co., stated that imaging is a vital aspect to effective diagnosis of illness and treatment. He added that it is increasingly important, however, to share images between health care providers to provide high-quality, cost-effective care.

The deal with Merge Healthcare is part of IBM’s efforts to aggressively expand in the sector of health care information technology. IBM has already purchased Phytel and Explorys, to boost its Watson health initiative and last week announced CVS as a major Watson health partner. Healthcare, obviously, is a potentially huge market.

“Merge is widely recognized for delivering market-leading imaging workflow and electronic data-capture solutions,” Merge Healthcare CEO Justin Dearborn said.

“Today’s announcement is an exciting step forward for our employees and clients. Becoming a part of IBM will allow us to expand our global scale and deliver added value and insight to our clients through Watson’s advanced analytic and cognitive computing capabilities.”

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“IBM Feeding Watson Via New Billion Acquisition”