IBM’s Watson is about to gain access to medical imaging which will allow the supercomputer to offer deeper diagnosis tools for use by doctors.
The tech giant announced on Thursday that it will spend $1 billion to acquire Merge Healthcare, a medical imaging software company.
IBM has been on a tear since April when it announced the Watson health business. The company has been acquiring companies owned by start-ups and established companies. In the months since launching the medical program it announced acquisitions and industry partnerships with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic.
Last week, IBM announced a partnership with CVS Health to develop data-driven services to help people with chronic ailments like diabetes and heart disease better manage their health.
Speaking about the $1 billion acquisition of Merge Healthcare, John Kelly, IBM’s senior vice president of research who oversees Watson told The New York Times, “We’re bringing Watson and analytics to the largest data set in health care — images.”
With Merge’s technology, the company will be able to examine CAT scans, X-rays and mammograms, which represent about 90 percent of all medical data today. The program will use those images along with each patient’s medical history, treatments, and drug regimens.
The company hopes to use Watson’s ability to analyze text in a way that allows for quick diagnosis of various diseases and other issues.
Merge Healthcare, based in Chicago, specializes in software for storing, viewing and sharing medical images.
In April IBM’s Watson team purchased Explorys, a spin-off from the Cleveland Clinic. That technology was developed to spot patterns in diseases, treatments and outcomes. The company also acquired Phytel, a Dallas maker of software to manage patient care and reduce readmission rates to hospitals.