IBM to acquire Merge Healthcare in $1B deal

IBM is taking its Watson technology one step further through a $1 billion acquisition of medical image management platform Merge Healthcare.

Through the deal, IBM hopes to "unlock the value of medical images to help physicians make better patient care decisions," according to an announcement.

Using Watson Health Cloud, organizations that use Merge's technology platforms will be able to view current and historical images, along with electronic health records, genomic tests, mobile health data and more to get a consolidated view of patients.

However, Merge has had some troubles in the past. In December 2012, the company filed a lawsuit against Downer's Grove, Ill.-based orthopedic software company Medstrat, Inc., for allegedly stealing part of its medical imaging business by making "false" and "disparaging" claims, FierceHealthIT reported at the time. In a settlement agreement, Merge dismissed the lawsuit, according to an announcement.

In addition, in August 2013, the company saw its stock price drop after reporting a loss of $28.1 million in the second quarter. In response, the company ousted CEO Jeffrey Surges, replacing him with company president Justin Dearborn.

Still, IBM sees Merge as a "tremendous addition to the Watson Health platform," John Kelly, senior vice president of IBM Research and Solutions Portfolio, said in the announcement.

"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," he said. "Giving Watson 'eyes' on medical images unlocks entirely new possibilities for the industry."

IBM also is continuing to expand Watson's reach through collaborations with other institutions. Just last week the company announced it will team up with CVS Health to combine predictive analytics and Watson technology to improve care management services for patients suffering from chronic disease.

The company also plans to collaborate with 14 cancer institutes across the country to create more personalized treatments for patients. 

To learn more:
- here's IBM's announcement