IBM is buying Chicago-based medical imaging company Merge Health for $1 billion (£660m), in a move Big Blue says will allow it to greatly expand its healthcare operations.
Merge Health’s capabilities are set to be incorportated into IBM’s newly formed health analytics unit, which is powered by Watson – its famous supercomputer that is able to process huge amounts of data to gain valuable insights.
The new system will also look to understand complex questions posed in natural language and proposes evidence-based answers.
“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, IBM Research and Solutions Portfolio. “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.”
The deal is the latest in a series of expansions for Watson as IBM looks to expand its operations into new industries.
Back in May, the company announced that Watson would be working with the famous Mayo Clinic and medical software provider Epic to apply its cognitive computing capabilities to Electronic Health Records (EHRs), providing faster and more thorough analysis of patient records.
The iconic Mayo Clinic, which sees over a million patients a year, is working with Watson to integrate its cognitive computing in matching cancer patients to clinical trials which could provide lifesaving treatment.
Last year, IBM introduced Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare, an application that provides content analytics to spot patients’ health patterns and improve care. Business analytics will also be able to connect medical data to mobile electronic health records (EHRs) using natural-language processing and technology similar to Watson.
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