IBM Watson antes up $1B to buy Merge

IBM adds another acquisition to the Watson supercomputing technology roster
By Bernie Monegain
10:07 AM
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IBM Watson

Continuing its shopping spree, IBM on Thursday announced that it will spend a cool $1 billion to acquire Merge Healthcare in a deal that will combine Merge's medical imaging technologies with IBM's Watson. 

Watson will gain the ability to "see" by bringing together Watson's advanced image analytics and cognitive capabilities with data and images obtained from Merge Healthcare's medical imaging management platform, IBM executives said in announcing the deal.

The intent, say IBM executives is to to unlock the value of medical images to help physicians make better patient care decisions.

Merge is a public company, traded on NASDAQ as MRGE.

Its technology platforms are used at more than 7,500 U.S. healthcare sites, as well as most of the world's leading clinical research institutes and pharmaceutical firms to manage a growing body of medical images.

As IBM execs see it, these organizations could use the Watson Health Cloud to surface new insights from a consolidated, patient-centric view of current and historical images, electronic health records, data from wearable devices and other related medical data, in a HIPAA-enabled environment.

Under terms of the transaction, Merge shareholders would receive $7.13 per share in cash, for a total transaction value of $1 billion. The closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory review, Merge shareholder approval, and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to occur later this year.

It is IBM's third major health-related acquisition – and the largest – since launching its Watson Health unit in April, following Phytel, a population health company and Explorys, a cloud-based intelligence firm. [See also: With 2 acquisitions, IBM builds out Watson Health.]

More on teaching Watson to 'see' on next page.