imaging technology

IBM is set to acquire medical imaging firm Merge Healthcare for $1bn to expand its presence in the healthcare industry.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Merge Healthcare supplies medical image handling, processing, interoperability and clinical systems for its healthcare customers.

The company’s technology platforms are used at more than 7,500 US healthcare sites, as well as by the majority of the world’s leading clinical research institutes and pharmaceutical firms for management of an increasing number of medical images.

"Watson analyses high volumes of data, understands complex questions presented in natural language and proposes evidence-based answers."

IBM plans to combine Merge’s medical imaging management platform with its Watson Health Cloud’s advanced image analytics and cognitive capabilities to help physicians make better patient care decisions.

Watson analyses high volumes of data, understands complex questions presented in natural language and proposes evidence-based answers.

IBM research and solutions portfolio senior vice-president John Kelly said: "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 organisations committed to changing the very nature of health and healthcare in the 21st century."

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Merge Healthcare CEO Justin Dearborn said: "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."

IBM hopes to leverage the Watson health cloud to analyse and cross-reference medical images against a deep collection of lab results, electronic health records, genomic tests, clinical studies and other health-related data sources.

The new medical images could be compared by Merge’s clients with a patient’s image history and populations of similar patients to detect changes and anomalies.

Insights generated by Watson are likely to help healthcare providers in fields, including radiology, cardiology, orthopaedics and ophthalmology to pursue more personalised approaches to diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients.

Subject to regulatory and other customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to be completed later this year.

Since launching its Watson Health unit in April, IBM has already acquired Phytel and cloud based healthcare intelligence, Explorys.

Image: IBM hopes to combine Watson’s advanced image analytics and cognitive capabilities with data and images obtained from Merge’s medical imaging management platform. Photo: courtesy of IBM.