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IBM Watson ups the healthcare market ante with $2.6 billion acquisition of Truven

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Healthcare is one of the most logical domains for cognitive computing. The stakes are high: outcomes are often a matter of life or death. It has well organized, extensively tagged information sources. And healthcare/pharmaceutical companies are sophisticated users of advanced software technologies for research, particularly for drug discovery and patient management.

It’s no surprise, then, that IBM has been creating a partner ecosystem and developing technologies aimed at this domain. It has also been gobbling up existing vendors like Phytel, Explorys, and Merge Helathcare since it formed its Watson Health unit in April, 2015. Truven is the fourth acquisition, and brings with it 8500 customers, secure technology and deep healthcare analytics. They also contribute data: 215 million “patient lives” that have been anonymized. This contributes significantly to the data that IBM has already amassed. In cognitive computing, more good data should lead to more fine grained analyses, better determination of cause and effect for drug discovery, and better diagnoses for patients. Truven also brings a services organization, expertise in epidemiology, oncology, healthcare statistics and other related specialties.

Healthcare is at a crossroads today, awash in data, struggling to contain costs, intrigued by the promise of practicing better medicine with cognitive computing and big data. With its organizational resources and its acquisitions, IBM Watson Healthcare is betting on first mover advantage in cognitive healthcare. As the industry lumbers into its next phase, however, it remains to be seen when or even whether this complex set of technology marketplaces will in fact become cognitive.

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About the Author:

Sue Feldman is Co-founder and Managing Director at the Cognitive Computing Consortium. She also is PrAs VP for Content Technologies at IDC, Sue developed and led research on search, text analytics and unified access technologies and markets. Her most recent book, The Answer Machine was published in 2012. Her current research is on use cases and guidelines for adopting cognitive computing to solve real world problems.
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