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Kodak restructures to ramp up digital business; health unit is on the block

Eastman Kodak Company recently announced a strategic reorganization in an effort to gear itself for further growth in the booming digital technology market. A big part of this change will come in the selling of the Health Group — and Kodak said in early May it was looking for buyers. This could be a tough sell, as the division has been underperforming.

The unit is valued at $2.7 billion, but sales were down in 2005 by 7 percent to $585 million and earnings dropped to $46 million, from $78 million previously.

hobert_80x100 “The industry is maturing and there’s a ton of opportunity in the health IT space. We’re just looking for alternatives to go out and build on everything we’ve created,” said Kevin Hobert, president, Kodak Health Group. He added that this transition “certainly creates some uncertainty, but it also creates opportunity and that can be energizing.”

Goldman, Sachs & Co. is advising Kodak on the sale of the Health Group. And despite a rumor of a potential suitor, no public announcements have yet been made as to which companies may be interested in the purchase.

to Kodak Health Group President Kevin Hobert on the potential sale and impact on customers.

New Studies

• Future holds room for both digital and traditional modalities
Don’t expect film x-ray and other “traditional” radiology systems to go extinct anytime too soon. According to a new report from Kalorama Information called Medical Imaging Markets, Volume 1: Radiography, digital x-ray systems, for example, currently still make up just 30 percent of the worldwide radiography market.

However, though both types of systems will continue to exist, the digital market is booming and by 2010 digital radiographic equipment including x-ray and mammography is likely to experience double-digit growth in the United States.

• Many breast cancer survivors skip regular mammograms
A new study finds that many breast cancer survivors begin to skip annual mammography exams after a few years. This is problematic because these women are at a higher risk of a recurrence or a new malignancy in the other breast at some point in the future. During a five-year period, only one in three women studied in this high-risk population had received regular annual mammograms, according to a study published in the June issue of CANCER.

Hologic acquires three companies in strategic move

Hologic Inc. has recently made three acquisitions in an effort to expand its market presence in key areas. The company announced plans to purchasing Suros Surgical Systems Inc., a manufacturer of devices used for minimally invasive biopsy and tissue excision; has acquired photoconductor materials maker AEG Elektrofotografie GmbH to gain control of detector manufacturing; and most significantly, announced plans to acquire CAD leader R2 Technology Inc.

R2 Technology has more than 2,500 mammo-graphy CAD installations worldwide. R2’s CAD systems will be integrated with Hologic’s mammography product portfolio.

Siemens buying DPC to enter in-vitro market

Siemens Medical Solutions and Diagnostic Products Corporation (DPC) have announced a merger agreement under which Siemens will acquire DPC for approximately $1.86 billion. The move is an effort by Siemens to shift into the in-vitro diagnostics market. DPC is one of the global provider of immunodiagnostics, focusing on developing, manufacturing and distributing automated body fluid analyzers and tests some of which are related to cancer and cardiac disease, as well as hormone and allergy conditions.

Siemens intends to expand its existing healthcare portfolio to enable early and specific diagnosis and individualized patient therapy.

Bill calls for repeal of Medicare payments cuts for medical imaging

U.S. House of Representatives member Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) recently introduced House Resolution (HR5238) which takes aim at imaging reimbursement cuts that are included in the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005 passed by the House of Representatives in February. McCarthy’s resolution calls for the repeal of the cuts.

The original DRA created Medicare reimbursement cuts for out-of-hospital medical imaging procedures which could have reduced access to much-needed imaging services or limited the number of Medicare patients who physicians would take. The bill, in its original form, could also cause some radiologists in rural areas to relocate to hospitals in larger cities.

FDA picks SNOMED as EHR standard

The FDA has made a move that should help efforts to expand availability of electronic health records in this county over the coming decade by adopting the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) as the standard computerized medical vocabulary for the system.


Amicas wins exclusive rights to RadStream

AMICAS announced it has acquired the exclusive licensing and worldwide distribution rights to RadStream, a software product designed to accelerate radiology workflow, improve radiologist soft-copy reading productivity and improve and fully document communication of positive results of radiology studies.

RadStream was designed and developed by the Radiology Informatics Research Core at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Business.

Feedback from the readers of Health Imaging News

Q: Has the layout of your department changed as a result of digital technologies?
A: Yes 71% 

Q: Can radiology reads be provided effectively off-shore?
A: No 58%

Q: Will each American have a portable electronic health record within 8 years?
A: No 51%

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FDA clears GE’s latest digital mammo system

GE Healthcare has been given FDA clearance for its new mammography Senographe Essential, the next-generation of the company’s full-field digital mammography (FFDM) systems.

The new Senographe Essential features a 24 x 31 cm detector size, and GE’s advanced digital detector, which at low doses delivers high Detective Quantum Efficiency (DQE).

GE introduced full-field digital mammography for patient use six years ago, and today there are more than 1,500 Senographe systems in use worldwide.

Researchers: Offshoring of radiology a myth

Although there has been much talk and worry over an expected exodus of radiologist positions in America due to outsourcing to India, according to an evaluation by three Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, no such trend exists — at least not yet, the New York Times reports.

Researchers set out to uncover just how many radiology groups in India are reviewing image studies from the United States. In the end, the researchers could find only one group that is doing such work, and the company employs only three radiologists.

CMS plans to cut cardiac device reimbursement

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed a new rule that would diminish the amounts Medicare would reimburse for implanted cardiac devices.

For example, payments for stents could drop by 30 percent and defibrillators by 20 percent.

Siemens MAMMOMAT NovationDR gets ‘wheels’

Siemens Medical Solutions has announced that the FDA has approved a PMA supplement to allow marketing of the MAMMOMAT NovationDR for mobile use. Medical facilities can now use the full field digital mammography system with a mobile coach for improved functionality and flexibility.

Engineers at Purdue University are developing a new wireless device about the size of a rice grain which will be used as an implant in tumors to provide doctors with precise information about the dose of radiation received and to better locate tumors during treatment. Called a passive wireless transponder, it has no batteries and will be activated with electrical coils placed near the body.