Over the past year the imaging vendor landscape continues to change. What impact will it have for healthcare providers? As with most change, there is good news and there is bad news. What are some of the key changes, and what might be their impact?
Last year’s Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) was the coming out party for IBM’s acquisition of Merge Healthcare. IBM chose to keep the identity as Merge, but I wonder if that will carry over to this year? IBM is making too many investments such as their recently announced acquisition of Truven Health Analytics (http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/49132.wss) not to start emphasizing the synergy of the IBM umbrella. Having established a business unit known as Watson Health (http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/health/), it will be interesting to see if they start promoting that moniker instead of the individual companies within. It clearly will take IBM a few years to sort all of this out, but there is a definite benefit to, and hopefully synergy between the elements they are assembling in terms of healthcare products.
It’s intriguing to think of how a similar phenomenon previously turned out in the information technology field when software services were the rage. Perot Systems was acquired by Dell. EDS was acquired by Hewlett Packard. Now we see Dell refocusing on hardware with an eventual acquisition of EMC, and HP splitting into two companies, one services and one equipment. So, it’s hard to say that either has proven to be a good fit.
Another significant development last year was Fujifilm’s acquisition of TeraMedica (http://www.fujifilmusa.com/press/news/display_news?newsID=880784). TeraMedica has been a key player and innovator in the enterprise image management market. Fujifilm clearly sees value and opportunity in leveraging TeraMedica in the enterprise imaging space, and as part of a broader healthcare equipment and services provider, TeraMedica can leverage Fujifilm’s international presence.
Lexmark is a study in irony. Over the past several years Lexmark has acquired a number of companies and built an impressive portfolio of document and image management solutions. With specific emphasis on healthcare, Lexmark acquired Acuo Technologies, the largest player in enterprise image management market, along with PACSGEAR, a key player in image capture and conversion products. The professed strategy has been to converge document, image, and video content into a singular clinical content management solution. Now comes word that Lexmark might be interested in selling off its software businesses (http://www.industryweek.com/change-management/lexmark-software-unit-said-attract-thoma-bravo-vista). If this were true, one wonders why after a deliberate effort to accumulate companies that supported a clinical content management strategy, would the company choose to divest of them? Perhaps comments from last year’s RSNA have merit in terms of a lack of synergy with the hardware printer business – a classic case of a great product strategy, but lack of a market channel to leverage them. There are potential companies that might offer more synergy such as the mentioned Hyland Software, Inc., so perhaps with the right channel emphasis, Lexmark can soar.
Now comes word that Toshiba is considering selling off their entire medical business portfolio (http://www.radiologybusiness.com/topics/healthcare-economics/report-toshiba-could-sell-entire-medical-unit-more-35-billion?utm_source=RBNW&utm_medium=4169591&utm_content=article&utm_campaign=newsletter_referral). Clearly Toshiba has had financial difficulties resulting from overstating profits and a management change, forcing a potential restructuring. There have been a number of companies mentioned as having interest, but I am intrigued by the prospect of someone like Fujifilm as a rumored suiter. I am also quite surprised not to see Samsung on the list, as Samsung has been rumored to be looking to expand its healthcare business for a number of years. Coupling Toshiba’s strengths in modalities (CT, MRI, etc.) with the diagnostic and information technology strengths of a Fujifilm would create a powerful competitor to the big three imaging equipment vendors (GE, Philips, Siemens).
So, the good news? Potential combinations may create formidable new vendors that can make sustainable investment in the technology. The bad news? There could be more change in the market if companies don’t think through an acquisition in terms of product and market synergies. Only time will tell as to how some of these turn out, and what further consolidation might occur.