Analytics company's purchase of Truven on Thursday sets it up as an even larger force in health care.Following another big acquisition last week, IBM Watson — with its simulated human thinking technology, able to read 80 million pages of data in one second — hopes to become hospitals’ biggest ally in the move toward value-based care.
The company announced on Thursday that it plans to acquire Truven Health Analytics for some $2.6 billion. With that, IBM will gain more than 8,500 new clients, 4,000 of which are U.S. hospitals. They’ll lay claim to one of the world’s largest repositories of health data, representing about 300 million lives.
Kyu Rhee, M.D., chief health officer of Watson Health, believes the company is perfectly positioned to help hospital leaders make sense of the mounds of data at their fingertips.
“One of the big challenges in health care is that there hasn’t been a company like IBM that has the relationships, the partnerships, the trust to put the different pieces of health care together,” he says. “A lot of health care is fragmented and siloed and we have the ability to pull it together and, ultimately, get insights from that data through the power of Watson and cognitive computing.”
IBM now will set about looking to integrate Truven’s reams of cloud-based cost, claims, quality and outcomes data with its own information. Rhee, who himself has a long and noteworthy resume, says the Ann Arbor, Mich., company has established a “dream team” of health care players to aid in the effort.
IBM, Armonk, N.Y., has been on something of a buying spree of late, acquiring three other health care players since launching Watson Health in April, all representing $4 billion. Besides Truven, they include population health management company Phytel, cloud-based health care intelligence expert Explorys and medical imaging company Merge Healthcare.
Following the close of the deal, expected later this year, IBM believes it will have assembled an “unparalleled” set of data and cognitive-computing abilities, unmatched in the health care space. Rhee insists, however, that they aren’t just gathering those troves of information for fun, and they plan to harness that data to help hospitals march into the value-based future.
“It isn’t big data for the sake of big data,” Rhee says. “It’s ultimately about how we make sense out of that big data, and how we translate it into big insights for stakeholders in the health care ecosystem, such as hospital administrators.”