Agfa sees sophisticated clinical integration as market differentiator

March 5, 2006

Agfa HealthCare plans to distinguish itself in a crowded IT market by providing meaningful integration of different sources of clinical data and bringing the results into clinical workflow, company officials said at the ECR.

Agfa HealthCare plans to distinguish itself in a crowded IT market by providing meaningful integration of different sources of clinical data and bringing the results into clinical workflow, company officials said at the ECR.

They described a world in which the pace of data generation is increasing and clinicians are challenged to bring together more sources of information to generate better, more predictive diagnoses. Doing so will require IT systems that move beyond administrative integration to more intelligently link different sources of information.

That approach has driven Agfa's recent acquisitions of a number of companies, said Andrea Fiumicelli, COO of Agfa's HealthCare Business Group, and Marcus Ostlander, European marketing manager, in an interview with Diagnostic Imaging Friday. These acquisitions include Heartlab, a cardiology informatics company, and GWI, a German firm that has developed an electronic health record.

"Image data will need to be merged to lab data to ECG data to pathology data, so the display will be a convergence of the clinical data," Fiumicelli said. "The speed and ease of the integration will become crucial to healthcare services. Only by applying deep IT solutions will we create the overarching solution for a hospital."

Recently, Agfa introduced a new version of its Impax workstation. Version 6.0 includes the ability to draw and display data from independent clinical data archives such as a radiology reference archive produced by Amirsys, a U.S. company, as an aid to clinical decision making, Ostlander said.

"The IT tradition as well as the future of Agfa are not strictly the administrative side of IT," Fiumicelli said. "We come from the clinical data side and want to maintain this specificity. We want to leverage the clinical knowledge the company has by bringing our experience in the clinical domain to the IT domain."

He describe the administrative IT in most countries as in a replacement mode that will continue to evolve. The virgin domain is the integration of clinical data management with workflow and administrative processes.

"Clinical data integration is not just making two databases talk to each other and recognize the patient," Fiumicelli said. "If it were only that, it would be only an information workflow or IT solution. To manage departmental data means to enter content or knowledge in the clinical space. To facilitate the convergence, the meaning of the knowledge, there is a syntax integration that is easy. The area where we want to have a differentiating role is in the semantic integration of the data."

Ostlander gave the following example of this integration: A radiologist has a complex abdominal case and needs reference cases to get key impressions that can be compared with other key impressions to assure confidence in the final report. Once this was done by radiologists who turned to reference books. More sophisticated systems should do this on a workstation seamlessly.

"Technology here plus technology there plus a semantical link creates a content-, knowledge-based integration," Ostlander said.

John C. Hayes

Editor's note: Agfa HealthCare is the commercial sponsor of Diagnostic Imaging's 2006 ECR webcast.