IBM announced this morning that it will acquire Merge Healthcare for $1 billion, planning to add Merge’s imaging and clinical systems to its Watson Health analytics unit. IBM says Merge’s systems will allow Watson to “see” and will “unlock the value of medical images to help physicians make better care decisions.”
Merge has 7,500 customer sites, which IBM sees as prospects for its Watson Health Cloud. The company suggests it could be used to compare a patient’s images to previously taken ones and with those of similar patients. Specific use cases include clinical trials design, making diagnosis and treatment decisions, optimizing patient engagement, and delivering value-based care.
IBM SVP John Kelly said in a statement, “As a proven leader in delivering healthcare solutions for over 20 years, Merge is a tremendous addition to the Watson Health platform. 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.”