Agfa buying Heartlab

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Afgra-Gevaert announced this week that it is boosting its cardiac image and information management capabilities with the acquisition Heartlab Inc. in a transaction totaling $132 million. Upon the approval of the acquisition, Heartlab will become Agfa's international cardiology center for markets in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas.
   
This move is expected to immediately improve Agfa's position in healthcare IT by boosting its cardiology solutions portfolio in the global market and also create the opportunity for integrated systems in multimodality settings, as well as improve its presence in U.S. hospitals. As part of Agfa, Heartlab's operation is likely to also dramatically grow given their new potential to offer expanded services within healthcare information management to their installed base of 250 cardiology care networks, according to a release.

Heartlab will remain under the current leadership of CEO Robert Petrocelli, who will now manage Agfa's Cardiology business unit.
   
"We [Agfa] have been in a transformation mode," Eric Maurincomme, head of business development at Agfa told Health Imaging News. "The first strategy is to grow in radiology, because this is where our roots are and this is where we were born and this is where most of our business is today. The next extension is really to grow into the other departments outside the walls of radiology. When we look at the other departments we look at cardiology as one of the biggest growth segments. There are other departments of course, such as women's care and orthopedic surgery, but we were seeing cardiology as the big growth opportunity."
   
The spark of this acquisition came in 2003, when Agfa and Heartlab first collaborated in a distribution agreement for IMPAX for Cardiology, a joint system that allows for integration of radiology and cardiology. The system incorporates Heartlab's clinical technology and diagnostic tools with Agfa's integration and workflow offerings, Agfa said.
   
Agfa and Heartlab could have continued down this path of collaboration as separate companies and worked out further agreements for joint products. But, Maurincomme says, Agfa wanted to "look at a stronger partnership. The acquisition is the ultimate partnership. Acquiring and taking control of the company allows us to control the concept of one platform, one development team, and going forward with a broader offering to our customers. It can be radiology, but it can also be cardiology customers. This is what we will strive to do in the next few months, to build this new platform, based on the Heartlab product line and our IMPAX radiology offerings."
   
Heartlab has a number of other things going for it that made it very appealing to Agfa beyond its status as a U.S. leader in cardiology imaging and information systems. Maurincomme said Heartlab also has an impressive set of unique products coming down the pipeline, considerable clinical depth, and have established themselves, much like Agfa, as a largely vendor neutral company. All of these things contributed to the acquisition.

Additionally, Heartlab co-founder Dr. Jonathan Elion has been a big proponent of IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise) in cardiology, an effort to adopt standards in clinical practice, which is something that Agfa also values.

The task for Agfa in the next few months will be to define what the integrated offerings are going to be. Heartlab, which has largely focused on the U.S. market, with some activity in Japan and some in Europe, will now truly become a global arm.

"We believe we can really help our customers around the world. We have over 1,000 radiology PACS installed around the world. We can go to these customers and make very strong integrated offerings with all the cardiology features," said Maurincomme. "And that's going to be part of our next challenge in the next exciting month and years to come."

Agfa expects that the acquisition will be complete, upon regulatory approval, within the next few months.