Agfa, Kodak take aim at electronic medical record

December 19, 2005

During the 2004 RSNA meeting, it looked as if two of the big film-based radiology players now transitioning to digital medical information, Agfa and Kodak, were set for a run at the electronic medical record.

During the 2004 RSNA meeting, it looked as if two of the big film-based radiology players now transitioning to digital medical information, Agfa and Kodak, were set for a run at the electronic medical record.

Agfa had purchased GWI, a German IT company with an EMR product, and Kodak had purchased computer code from an Australian company that allowed it to show a work-in-progress EMR to selected audiences.

Customers who look to either company for an EMR product, however, will have to wait a little longer. Agfa is selling the GWI product in Europe but is looking for a service-based partner in the U.S. before bringing it to North America. Kodak has focused on selling its Carestream Information Management Solutions before it tackles the broader IT market with an electronic medical record product.

"The EMR and moving into healthcare IT requires a lot of work. There is a long order cycle, a long implementation cycle, and it's capital-intensive," said Kevin J. Hobert, president of Kodak's health group. "I really want our team to focus on being outstanding and excellent in PACS and RIS and the (other) areas that are the core of our business today. I want to build a leading position. And then we can leverage off that and move into broader healthcare IT."

Kodak's Carestream IMS centrally manages and stores medical images and other patient information across the enterprise, handling data in and beyond radiology, including cardiology, oncology, and orthopedics. There are now about 120 Carestream installations in place.

Agfa is taking a similar approach. Its development of an EMR is part of an enterprise strategy that for now is taking a backseat in North America to radiology and departmental solutions.

"We operate under no illusion in terms of stepping into that space in North America," said Robert S. Pryor, president of HealthCare Americas for Agfa. "In order for us to really be effective and meet the expectations of our customers, we think it's important for us to find an appropriate partnership in that space to give us a kick start to penetrate the market at a rate that we're expecting and ought to enjoy."

In 2004, Agfa acquired Heartlab, a cardiology PACS provider, and now has that product available in Europe. Future acquisitions are not out of the question, but they are not likely.

"The way we view the acquisition availability right now in the U.S. is that we think the multiples are a bit high, and we believe that we already have the solutions, technology, and platform," Pryor said. "We need some complementary services and some knowledge in that particular space as opposed to a technology piece."

Pryor said he hopes Agfa can bring its EMR product to the North American market in early 2007.

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