Agfa bolsters Asian PACS presence with new management and strategy

September 20, 2000

Agfa bolsters Asian PACS presence with new management and strategyCooke to head up global Impax business groupWhile many publicly traded healthcare technology companies are struggling to satisfy investors these days, Agfa-Gevaert has

Agfa bolsters Asian PACS presence with new management and strategy

Cooke to head up global Impax business group

While many publicly traded healthcare technology companies are struggling to satisfy investors these days, Agfa-Gevaert has definitely seized the opportunity provided by its 1999 IPO. The company is reporting better-than-expected financials again for the most recent quarter (see News Briefs, p. 3) and recently put the finishing touches on a new global business structure that better positions the firm in each of its three primary regional markets.

Following the model established by its North American and European Impax Solutions businesses, Agfa has now created a regional team dedicated to the Asia-Pacific PACS market. The new group is being headed up by David Chambers, general manager, who will be based in Melbourne, Australia. Chambers has been with Agfa since 1997 as general manager of medical imaging for Australia and New Zealand. The company expects Australia to continue to be a key market in the Pacific Rim; among its high-profile PACS projects is a $25 million contract with Queensland Health signed last year.

Agfa's new global/regional structure has also prompted other management changes among the Impax Solutions group. Robert Cooke, who has overseen Impax Solutions North America since 1997, has been promoted to the position of vice president and global general manager for all of Impax Solutions. Cooke began his career with Agfa in 1990 as product manager for hard-copy products. Douglas Tucker, formerly director of technical product management for Impax, has stepped into the position vacated by Cooke and is now vice president of Impax Solutions North America.

"The PACS market continues to grow at a very rapid rate—15% to 20% on a global basis," Cooke said. "And we think that local opportunities require us to look at the delivery structures and make sure we are properly positioned in each of our regional markets."

While Agfa claims that its expanded Asia-Pacific presence is part of a larger global marketing strategy that has been in the works for over a year, the firm is not alone in efforts to beef up its PACS business in Asia. The Japanese economy is finally on the rebound, and the healthcare IT market in Asia-Pacific is estimated at more than $4 billion, according to the Collaborative Health Informatics Centre (CHIC).

"The local governments (in Australia) have stimulated interest in PACS by reimbursing for soft-copy reading," Cooke said. "We are also seeing a lot of opportunity in Korea because they also offer higher reimbursement for soft-copy readings. And there are rumors of the same thing happening in Japan."

These factors have prompted a number of U.S. and European PACS and modality vendors to focus on securing or expanding distribution and service partnerships in this region. The major Japan-based PACS providers (Fuji, Konica, and Samsung) have also increased their marketing efforts in this region, according to Michael Cannavo, president of Image Management Consultants of Winter Springs, FL.

"A lot of smaller vendors are making inroads in the Asia-Pacific market," he said. "At the European Congress of Radiology earlier this year (HNN 4/5/00), these companies were all looking for dealers and distributors."