How IBM’s deal to acquire Merge could transform health IT

In major league baseball, batters take less time to decide whether to swing at a pitch than they do to blink.  They observe, interpret, evaluate and decide, all in fractions of a second: reading the seams of the ball eight hundredths of a second after it leaves the pitcher’s hand; determining the type of pitch – knuckle ball, fastball, curveball, slider; deciding whether it can be hit .22 seconds later; starting to swing, when the ball is only half way between the mound and home plate. Total elapsed time: 0.3 second.

swinging in the blick of an eye infographic Design by francesca greggs & lemonwood design

Physicians have longer to form an opinion. But they have less room for error.  For them, the count never goes to 3 and 2.  They get one shot at a correct diagnosis.

A takeover bid made early this month by IBM could go a long way toward improving their odds of getting it right. If it does, it will be by leveraging of the same processes that MLB batters use.  

Big Blue wants to buy Merge Healthcare, a vendor of radiology information systems and picture archiving and communications systems. The $1 billion cash deal is being driven not by the revenues Merge might add to IBM’s balance sheet but the imaging assets the deal would bring. Some of those assets are software for managing medical images. But of greater significance is access to the billions of medical images that Merge might provide through its installed base of 7,500 healthcare customers.