Kodak exec details future of Carestream Health

March 16, 2007

Being part of a big, multifaceted company can be constraining. Just ask Kevin Hobert, who wears two hats for Eastman Kodak: president of Kodak’s Health Group and senior vice president of the company whose products have fed demand from both professionals and consumers.

Being part of a big, multifaceted company can be constraining. Just ask Kevin Hobert, who wears two hats for Eastman Kodak: president of Kodak's Health Group and senior vice president of the company whose products have fed demand from both professionals and consumers.

In a few months, Hobert expects to get rid of one of those hats and trade in the other, assuming the title of CEO at newly minted Carestream Health. The new name will take over for Kodak's Health Group after its purchase by Canadian holding company Onex goes through, which could happen by summer.

"It will be a very different situation," he told DI SCAN at the European Congress of Radiology. "It will be liberating to be able to get out there and define the future."

As part of Eastman Kodak, the Health Group has been subordinated to the needs of the overall corporate strategy. While Kodak has invested heavily in R&D in both its healthcare IT and x-ray based portfolios, it has not done so in as many areas as Hobert would have liked. One area that will get increased attention is enterprise-wide patient-centric data systems.

"We can be more aggressive," he said. "We can look at innovating beyond radiology to build a bigger, stronger IT business."

This will likely happen through in-house R&D, as has been done as a division within Kodak. Future growth, however, will be accelerated through acquisitions, possibly more so and in a different way than was done in the past. Typically, Onex has bought businesses in selected areas and then added on to them, said Hobert, who expects this to happen after the Health Group becomes a pure play healthcare firm.

"Onex wants to grow," he said. "And this is how they build value."

Some of these acquisitions will be designed to propel Carestream beyond radiology by employing a strategy that the company already has in place. The expansion of Kodak's Health Group in IT was built upon the acquisition of Algotec, which had developed an advanced PACS. This expansion was aided by later acquisitions of companies that contributed RIS and information management platforms, which were integrated with the PACS.

Throughout this corporate evolution, company visionaries were looking ahead to support the handling of increasingly diverse data that might be obtained across a healthcare enterprise. Archives developed to manage the terabytes of imaging data would serve as the infrastructure for handling all these data, according to Hobert.

"Hospitals have seen a benefit when they invest in the back end of the archive for radiology to consolidate all the information in the hospital into this archive," he said. "This makes for easier data migration, easier backup to ensure redundancy of data. It's a significant cost savings."

At the helm of Carestream, Hobert plans to leverage this approach, integrating new sources of patient information into the infrastructure developed to support radiology.

"We have a kind of tiered approach for data access and storage that has been very popular with our customers, particularly the CIOs," he said. "It will be the backbone of the patient record. It is a step we have already taken."