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IBM boosts Watson with a treasure trove of medical data

IBM has dipped into the market to extend its Watson Health division with the acquisition of Truven Health Analytics for an intended price of $2.6 billion.

This is the fourth time that IBM has extended the reach of Watson Health since its establishment back in 2014 when the company bought Phytel and Exploris, which again were data driven health companies. That data centric model sits well with IBM Watson's artificial intelligence model, but Truven comes with more than just data.

The Truven Health Analytics acquisition will mean IBM taking on - in addition to Truven’s cloud based data repository - 2,500 employees and 8,500 clients, which include U.S. federal and state government agencies, employers, health plans, hospitals, clinicians and life sciences companies.

While IBM is buying a health care treasure trove of data, it takes data scientists to make sense of it and that is where the 2,500 employees transferring over come in to the picture. IBM reckons these are the employees who can make sense of the data and add value to Watson Health.

For all those concerned about the privacy of their health records, it appears that IBM Watson Health complies with HIPAA in ensuring patient confidentiality. This means that although their case notes are on record the patient remains anonymous. “There are right ways and wrong ways of sharing information for everyone in the stakeholder ecosystem to get the benefit. At the end of the day the consumer or patient is at center of what we are trying to achieve,” said Anil Jain, VP of Watson Health.

It’s worth noting that the stakeholders include patients, doctors, and researchers however they also include insurance companies, governments and federal employers, all of whom have an interest in your medical history.