This morning, IBM announced that it will acquire leading healthcare Master Data Management (MDM) vendor, Initiate for an undisclosed sum. The healthcare IT (HIT) sector is white hot right now so it is likely IBM paid a pretty penny for Initiate, the clear healthcare market leader in Master Patient Index (MPI) technology. Combining Initiate sales for 2009 at around $90-95M, a hot sector (say 3.5-4x revenue evaluation) and one concludes that IBM put down nearly $400M for this healthcare darling. This acquisition confirms one of our 2010 predictions – a significant increase in HIT acquisitions, including the entry (or increased presence, as in this case) of large IT vendors.
So What Did IBM Get?
With tens of billions of ARRA stimulus funding being poured into the healthcare sector under the HITECH Act, IBM has picked up one of the real jewels in the industry who is ideally positioned to capitalize on a significant portion of that federal largess.
As we have written previously, core to HITECH legislation is that funding be used to promote “information exchange for care coordination.” Such coordination of care hinges on a clinician’s ability to pull up the right records, for the right patient, at the right time. Tapping such patient information tucked within an EHR, an HIE, a public health database, etc. at the click of a mouse is done via MPI, but this is no trivial task. Most software vendors offer an MPI solution within their product based on deterministic algorithms. But these algorithms, that rely on such things as name, address, maybe a social security number, are often not robust enough for large data sets. More advanced, albeit more complex, MPI solutions rely on probabilistic algorithms, which is Initiate’s core competency.
Initiate currently serves some 2,400 healthcare facilities and lays claim to being used at 40 or so health information exchanges (HIEs). Currently, Chilmark Research is conducting a study on the HIE market (hope to have draft ready by HIMSS) and in our discussions with many in this sector, Initiate is seen as the clear market leader and partner to provide HIE clients with an MPI that will meet their complex information sharing needs.
In somewhat of a surprising move, Initiate jumped directly into the HIE market by acquiring the small HIE start-up, Accenx in October 2009. It will be of some interest to see how aggressively IBM leverages both Initiate and the Accenx solution going forward. Our bet is that IBM will partner for RHIOs (e.g. Axolotl, Carefx, Medicity, etc.) but go directly after the private HIEs within large Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) competing against the likes of large EMR companies Cerner and Epic as well as HIE pure plays Medicity, RelayHealth, etc.
Excellent move by IBM and an acquisition that they will be able to leverage in other markets such as their significant presence in supply chain management.
Installing Initiate requires a significant amount of services, IBM will be able to capitalize upon this as well. Also, IBM has a not so insignificant hardware (large database servers) and software businesses that can be combined with Initiate to provide healthcare with a larger, more complete solutions suite.
This acquisition will put increasing pressure on Oracle to make a bigger move in the healthcare sector. (Note that Sun Microsystems, a recent Oracle acquisition, does have an MPI – being used in NHIN’s CONNECT platform – but reports from the field do not rate this solution highly).
Acquisition also puts some pressure on Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group, who yesterday closed on their acquisition of Sentillion. Microsoft is making a modest play in the HIE market with Amalga UIS, Sentillion will also play a role here, but there is, at least to our knowledge, no MPI solution within Microsoft’s portfolio that can compete with Initiate. How Microsoft responds will be interesting to follow.
There is some danger, however, that Initiate may languish under the IBM umbrella becoming buried within a multitude of applications that IBM currently offers. Hopefully, IBM recognizes the jewel they have acquired and will not let this market darling succumb to internal forces that may wish to simply drop Initiate into the large IBM application hopper.
For another perspective, Ray Wang of Software Insiders has a good analysis of this acquisition in the context of the MDM market space.