IBM this week completed its $1 billion acquisition of medical imaging software vendor Merge Healthcare with business goals directly tied to Big Blue’s Watson supercomputer. Merge, whose technology is used at more than 7,500 U.S. healthcare sites, will become part of IBM's new Watson Health business unit.
According to IBM, Merge’s current customer base includes some of the world’s leading clinical research institutes and pharmaceutical firms who manage a growing body of medical images. Big Blue hopes these organizations will analyze and cross-reference their vast repositories of medical images against the 315 billion data points stored in the Watson Health Cloud.
“Merge’s clients could compare new medical images with a patient’s medical history as well as populations of similar patients to detect changes and anomalies,” said IBM in a written statement. “Insights generated by Watson could then help healthcare providers and researchers to pursue more personalized approaches to diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients.”
According to Mike Svinte, vice president of global client engagement for IBM Watson Health, the reason Big Blue bought Merge Healthcare was because of the company’s “insight and acumen” when it comes to radiology and cardiology images.
Also See: Why IBM Wants to Buy Merge Healthcare
“Close to 90 percent of all clinical data is actually core images,” said Svinte at the MedTech 2015 conference in Buffalo, N.Y. “Today, a radiologist may need to look at a thousand images to see size, growth and movement, and we believe as we go forward with technologies we’ve been working on for the last number of years we can make a big difference.”
In addition, he said that IBM wants its Watson supercomputer to able to “see” diagnostic medical images.
“Watson now has the ability increasingly to see,” according to Svinte. “We are building all of the senses into Watson which we believe will open up a tremendous amount of opportunities that we’re not even touching on.”
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