Q&A: Carestream head talks shop
Kevin Hobert, Carestream Health CEOCarestream Health Inc., formerly Kodak's Health Group, last week formally announced that it is up and running after the completion of its acquisition by Onex Corporation. Health Imaging News spoke to Kevin Hobert, Carestream Health’s chief executive officer, about the implications of what the newly formed, independent company means to customers and employees, as well as the company’s technology offerings.

Now that Carestream is now up and running, what’s next?

We’ve been planning for months, and we want to make sure [the transition] is absolutely transparent to our customers and that we provide the same level of outstanding support that we have in the past — getting them products, getting the products installed, servicing our install base and so forth. We’ve done a lot to prepare for that and we’re doing a lot now to monitor the process and make sure that it’s happening smoothly.

How have you reached out to customers through this transition, and how do you expect this will impact them?

We’re really trying to touch base with our customers around the world… to let them know that we’re going to maintain our portfolio and the solutions that we’ve developed. We’re going to continue to support all of our products and continue to invest and innovate, and convey that this is going to give us an opportunity to do even more for them and grow even faster.

In what instances will the Kodak name still be used in branding?

We will have access to the Kodak name in association with our products for some time. We spent over 100 years building up the Kodak brand in healthcare and our customers trust us. So, we want them to understand that Carestream came from Kodak and all the same focus on customers is going to be there going forward. I’m not exactly sure when or how we’ll transition from the Kodak brand but we’re developing those plans now.

Are there any new medical device areas or types that you might now explore?

We bring out new products all the time and we haven’t been holding anything off until day one [of Carestream]. We just introduce them in the normal course and that’s true across the product line. We continued to invest aggressively in R&D throughout the strategic alternative process that we went through. So, we’ve got a great pipeline of products that will come out over the next couple of years, and forward-looking research beyond that.

In terms of new areas to move into, our vision or goal is to change the landscape of healthcare and to help our customers improve the cost and quality of patient care, and we’re looking for opportunities to do that. We’re focused in the area of healthcare IT and moving customers from film and paper to an all-digital workflow, whether that be in dental offices or hospitals. We’re looking at ways that we can do this faster, bigger, and better.

We’ll look at both organic growth opportunities and acquisition opportunities in the space of dental and practice management around the world, and we’ll look to grow in radiology IT and look into other clinical departments such as electronic patient records and other areas where we can leverage the platform that we’ve built.

What facilities, internal workings, or employee levels might now change?

We’ve been going about hiring people in the areas of finance, human resources, logistics, information technology. Many of them are Kodak people that we had relied on in the past to form our own functions so that we can run as a completely independent business. A lot of that is behind us.

If you look at our portfolio there are parts which are declining because the markets are declining, such as film products. There are parts of our portfolio that are growing rapidly as the markets grow, or faster than the market is growing. So, we’re hiring in some areas and in other areas we’re looking at ways we can either find different uses for our assets like our manufacturing plants, and things that we can do that will give our people a future, and we’re doing some restructuring. It’s a dynamic portfolio and it’s a dynamic business and we’ll be consolidating some parts and growing other parts as we move forward.

What specific areas do you see declining?

It’s really the film business. We provide film for many customers around the world. We’re trying to lead them into an all-digital workflow and offer them solutions that move them past film; but there’s going to be some customers that want to continue to buy it.

In order to continue to supply film for our customers at a good value going forward we have to make sure we keep our manufacturing assets fully utilized. We’re using some of the plants to coat other products outside the healthcare industry. We’ve just started that up at two different plants and we’ve had quite a bit of success. That’s good for the team and good for our people, and for the customers because we can continue to efficiently provide film for them.