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IBM gets 215 million patient profiles in $2.6 billion analytics firm buy

IBM's Watson Health, the company's 10-month-old healthcare data crunching unit, plans to acquire Truven Health Analytics and its 215 million patient profiles, with the ultimate goal of helping health-care providers make better business and patient-care decisions.

The $2.6 billion deal, announced Thursday, gives IBM Watson Health access to a huge new data set in the unit's efforts to mine data to improve health-care quality while controlling costs.

Including data from Truven, Watson Health will have access to about 300 million patient data sets, IBM said. Using IBM's Watson Health Cloud, health-care organizations will be able to combine several data sets.

Truven's health-care provider data, combined with other data sets and the computing power of Watson, gives IBM's a "pretty powerful platform," said Eric O'Daffer, a health-care supply chain analyst with Gartner.

The acquisition of Truven, expected to close later this year, will also add hundreds of clinicians, epidemiologists, statisticians, health-care administrators, policy experts and health-care consultants to Watson Health, IBM said. IBM will purchase Truven from current owner Veritas Capital.

Truven, headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has more than 8,500 customers, including U.S. federal and state government agencies, employers, health plans, hospitals, clinicians and life sciences companies, IBM said.

IBM has championed Watson Health as a tool to bring high-quality health-care to remote areas, to match patients to clinical trials, and to give health researchers access to massive data sets.

"Lots of the future of progress in healthcare lies in this analytics area," O'Daffer said. "The ability to take data that intersects multiple systems ... and the ability to synthesize that data in a meaningful way to make better decisions is really the key to the next phase of progress."

Truven Health Analytics is IBM’s fourth major health-related acquisition since launching its Watson Health unit in April 2015. Previously, IBM acquired Phytel, a population health software vendor; Explorys, a cloud-based health-care intelligence company, and Merge Healthcare, a medical imaging firm.

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