Over several years, IBM’s Watson supercomputer has been taught to understand human speech, to understand the languages of medicine, chemistry, biology, legal and intellectual property, and to understand contexts of the languages. It has been taught to identify and review patterns in genome sequencing and medical data to develop advanced decision support and individualized treatment of patients.

Now, IBM wants Watson to “see” diagnostic medical images and plans to buy medical imaging software vendor Merge Healthcare for $1 billion to help develop the capability.

Merge has more than 7,500 provider sites as clients, along with research institutions and pharmaceutical firms. IBM, beset with slow growth in its legacy business lines, sees its healthcare unit as a major growth area for the next decade, as demonstrated by acquiring Merge. While Watson was developed to serve multiple industries, its health care applications were folded into a new Watson Health unit in April, along with two acquired complementary vendors—Phytel (population health management software) and Explorys (predictive analytics integrated into Phytel).

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IBM will analyze and cross-reference medical images “against a deep trove of lab results, electronic health records, genomic tests, clinical studies and other health-related data sources, already representing 315 billion data points and 90 million unique records,” according to an announcement from both companies.

Adding medical imaging to Watson’s repertoire will enable clinicians to compare new medical images with a patient’s history as well as populations of similar patients to identify changes and anomalies. This could pave the way for more personalized treatment for radiology, cardiology, orthopedics and ophthalmology, the companies say.

A Merge representative did not respond to an interview request to discuss how Merge’s technologies will work with those of Phytel and Explorys, how providers will gain access to Watson findings, timelines for new services to be available and what Watson “seeing” medical images really means.

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