Agfa serves notice at ECR of move into global IT

April 4, 2005

Agfa Healthcare used the European Congress of Radiology as a forum to announce plans to merge its corporate culture and technologies with newly acquired IT specialist GWI. In business meetings punctuated by an offsite champagne reception, Agfa executives described the consolidation, barely two months old, as a decisive step in its transformation into a global healthcare IT company.

Agfa Healthcare used the European Congress of Radiology as a forum to announce plans to merge its corporate culture and technologies with newly acquired IT specialist GWI. In business meetings punctuated by an offsite champagne reception, Agfa executives described the consolidation, barely two months old, as a decisive step in its transformation into a global healthcare IT company.

The two companies' IT platforms - GWI's Orbis and Agfa's Impax RIS/PACS - were presented at the ECR as entry points to different yet integral parts of the healthcare continuum. Ultimately, radiologists will benefit, according to Philippe Houssiau, president of the Agfa HealthCare Business Group.

"Radiology is becoming increasingly complex at the same time the pool of professionals is decreasing," he said. "Extending IT across the enterprise makes data transfer and data processing much easier, so that the productivity of the radiologist can improve dramatically."

Future development will combine the two platforms into one. The goal is to create a holistic enterprise-wide system that integrates all clinical and administrative data.

"The challenge and the opportunity for us lies in how we can improve value for our current radiology customers by providing a much more integrated suite of applications," Houssiau said. "We must make sure Agfa's Impax suite can be seamlessly integrated into a much broader enterprise application suite."

The first version of such a technology could be in hand within eight to 16 months, he said. Orbis' administrative and clinical IT platform will serve as the foundation for this enterprise-wide electronic medical record, integrated with Agfa's homegrown Impax RIS/PACS.

The move beyond radiology is a logical one, according to Houssiau. Even before acquiring GWI, Agfa had been expanding its Impax platform to include cardiology, orthopedics, and women's healthcare. Surgical planning for orthopedic surgeons and workstations specific to cardiology were supported by expansions into computer diagnostics and mammography workstations.

With Orbis, Agfa expands further into pediatrics, dermatology, oncology, psychiatry, urology, internal medicine, gynecology, ophthalmology, general surgery, even dental medicine and nursing. Functions address planning, physician consultation, treatment, ordering, clinical results, and reporting, as well as administrative tasks such as accounting.

Access to such a range of data, in the context of medical images, promises to boost the efficiency of healthcare, according to Michael Rosbach, formerly GWI's chief sales officer and now a top exec at Agfa Healthcare.

"Patient data should be available not only to one or two places in a hospital but to every caregiver who seeks this information," he said.

Bringing Orbis and Impax together will change the practice of medicine as it extends the reach of radiology, according to Rosbach.

"The radiologist is able to deliver the information he or she gathers throughout the hospital using the Orbis infrastructure," he said. "And coming back, the radiologist benefits by having instant access to all information gathered within the hospital. This reduces time for the diagnosis and improves the consistency of the information."