Agfa builds new U.S. strategy focused on regional managed care

December 29, 1993

Agfa has launched a major effort to provide digital and film imagingtechnology to U.S. hospitals operating in a restructured and capitatedhealth-care environment. The Ridgefield Park, NJ, vendor willhave a regionally based, six-zone sales and service

Agfa has launched a major effort to provide digital and film imagingtechnology to U.S. hospitals operating in a restructured and capitatedhealth-care environment. The Ridgefield Park, NJ, vendor willhave a regionally based, six-zone sales and service structurein place by February, according to Caren Mason, vice presidentof marketing and business development for diagnostic imaging systems.

Agfa will reorganize its field sales organization to offercustomers electronic imaging specialists with combined sales andservice responsibilities. These managers will work with hospitalaccounts to develop and maintain customized digital image handlingsystems, she said.

Specialists will also be staffed at the zone level to ensurequality control in mammography, film production and other medicalimaging areas. A territory manager will function as overall accountcoordinator, ensuring that all Agfa's services to the hospitalare properly managed, she said.

"We are in the process of reorganizing to meet the newmarket requirements," Mason told SCAN. "We will havea core team in each critical geography throughout the U.S. Where(health-care) regionalization has already begun, we will be there."

Building on experience from its longstanding relationshipwith health maintenance pioneer Kaiser Permanente, Agfa's corporateaccounts effort will focus on the large-scale imaging needs offor-profit managed-care hospitals, she said.

Agfa plans to institute in 1994 a single monthly payment planthat provides hospitals with a set monthly charge per patientfor all film and electronic imaging needs. This capitated imagingcharge can then be varied as hospitals are faced with changesin their own capitated insurance rates, Mason said.

"Our (hospital) partners can deal with us in the sameway they have to deal with insurance companies," she said."Hospitals have an incredible load coming their way. It isonly fair that we share in the new approach. It doesn't make sensefor us to continue just selling products. Companies that are mostconcerned with selling products will not be effective in the yearsto come."

Health-care reform will increase hospitals' need for morecomprehensive digital medical imaging systems, said John McGlynn,Agfa senior vice president.

Agfa has expanded the technology behind its Impax medical imagemanagement and archiving system from the original ultrasound focusto provide flexible digital connections to all imaging modalities.About 16 Impax sites are in various stages of implementation aroundthe country, according to Vishal Wanchoo, national manager forImpax.

"As a film company, the decision to move into electronicimaging and even filmless systems was a major decision. The decisionwas made easier, however, because we feel hard copy will stillbe a factor in our business for years to come, perhaps seven to10 years," McGlynn said.

Hospital customers are looking for digital imaging systemsthat will position them well in a reformed U.S. health-care system,he said.

"They will be the leader in their community with (digital)systems such as this," McGlynn said.

During the RSNA meeting this month, Agfa highlighted its Impaxinstallation at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, CO. Thisdigital network transmits multimodality images between three facilities:SMC, the Swedish-Niva Ultrasound Center across the street, andRadiology Imaging Associates 11 miles away, Wanchoo said.

Initially, Agfa networked ultrasound systems at the outpatientSwedish-Niva center and provided electronic review and archivingcapabilities. The second step was to connect sites with a high-speedmicrowave link and incorporate images from CT, MRI and digitalstereotactic mammography, he said.

Agfa claims that this is the first time such a complex, multimodalityand remote transmission network has been developed by a medicalfilm company.

Over the next six months, Agfa will add digitized film andRIS connections to the digital system, Wanchoo said. Another objectiveis to connect both Kodak and Agfa laser cameras.

Digital imaging networks provide an economic way to continuepracticing subspecialty radiology in an era of health-care reform,said Dr. Jerry W. Froelich, director of MRI at Swedish.

"Reimbursement is changing. Capitation is hurting us.Electronics will allow us to be economically viable in this reducedmarket," Froelich said.