October 2008


GE Healthcare, Varian to collaborate on MRI system

GE Healthcare and Varian, Inc. will be collaborating to develop a new pre-clinical 7T magnetic resonance (MR) imaging system. Under the agreement, initial development and integration will be a joint effort between the two companies. Once development is complete, Varian will offer customers a fully integrated 7T System combining GE Healthcare’s state of the art electronics, user interface, pulse-sequences and applications with the magnet, gradients, positioning devices and RF coils provided by Varian.

Pre-clinical magnetic resonance imaging is a versatile and non-invasive method to investigate anatomy, metabolism, and physiology in research models. It has a broad range of applications in soft tissues, including brain and organ imaging, tumor assessment, disease progression, and functional imaging. In research, other potential applications include investigation of new contrast mechanisms and agents, monitoring gene expression, analysis of protein interactions, and determination of pharmacokinetics. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging is a closely related technique, used to measure the concentrations of specific molecules in the body, enabling direct measurement of neurotransmitters in the brain or metabolites in muscle.

“We feel this system is an ideal addition to our existing pre-clinical MRI product line,” said Martin O’Donoghue, Vice President, Scientific Instruments, Varian, Inc. “It will appeal to the burgeoning group of researchers who have experience with GE MRI systems. We feel this will give them the pre-clinical MR imaging tool they have been looking for.”

“This promises to be an important advance in pre-clinical MR,” said Jim Mitchell, general manager of Molecular Imaging technologies for GE Healthcare, and the leader for pre-clinical technologies. “We have made an enormous effort to ensure GE Healthcare is the place researchers look first for the most advanced imaging technology for pre-clinical applications. Together with Varian we anticipate being able to expand our preclinical imaging offering which currently includes PET, SPECT, CT scanners as well as dual and tri-modality imaging systems.”

CSC selects InterSystems for trust integration

Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) is to use InterSystems Ensemble for the integration of all new applications it provides to existing trust systems. CSC, the local service provider for the North East and Midlands regions in England’s NHS National Programme for IT, has selected Ensemble as the standard trust integration engine (TIE). The Ensemble TIE will include pre-built and pre-tested interfaces for key trust-based applications.

As a result of the deal, the Ensemble integration platform will be used for integrating new solutions, such as Lorenzo, with existing applications provided by CSC. The TIE will be available to all trusts in NME under the CSC deal. Trusts have the option to expand their use of Ensemble beyond the TIE to address other trust integration requirements. “Proven, comprehensive and extensible integration is vital to the success of the NPfIT programme,” said Mike Dyer, CSC’s NHS chief technology officer. “Our new TIE initiative directly addresses the need to achieve a single view of a patient record and keep disparate systems synchronised.”

NHS Yorkshire and the Humber is one of the first strategic health authorities to use Ensemble under the contract. InterSystems Ensemble had been successfully implemented at a number of NHS sites including Barts and The London NHS Trust, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Plymouth ICT Shared Services, Peterborough Hospitals NHS Trust, Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, Bolton Hospitals NHS Trust, and East & North Herts NHS Trust. InterSystems says it has provided over 400 implementations of Ensemble in healthcare organisation globally. These connected healthcare initiatives have made it possible to create and integrate electronic health records, delivering improved care while costs are significantly reduced. In February 2008, InterSystems Ensemble was ranked as Number One interface engine in the survey of healthcare providers conducted annually by KLAS, a leader in healthcare technology research.

Healthcare to attract USD 500 m PE funding in 3 yrs

According to industry estimates, over the next three years the healthcare services segment in India will attract PE funding worth about USD 500 million.

PE investments in healthcare are focused on three key segments – hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and more recently the emerging healthcare services segment. The healthcare services include diagnostic chains, medical device manufactures, disease management services and allied healthcare services, which are increasingly attracting investments from a variety of venture capitalists. Though in recent times PE funding preferred retail, infrastructure, financial services, now most fund managers believe that the returns on investment earned in the past would not be possible going forward. At the same time, healthcare sector has a recession- averse trait. This status would ensure that healthcare sector remains robust and continues to attract increasing attention from PEs.

Indian healthcare sector, which is at a nascent stage, is finally shedding the image of a stagnant, perfunctory sector and the enormous unmet demand within the industry has ensured a business opportunity for everyone. PE fund infusion would bring fiscal discipline in the healthcare sector. Besides, it would also lead to the consolidation of the un-organised healthcare market.

Idhasoft launches hospital management system

The USD 100 million company, Idhasoft, an IT services company in the healthcare space, has implemented software in several corporate hospitals in Hyderabad and Chennai. It has now launched a hospitals information system called Idhasoft Hospital Management System (iHMiS) product in Pune. iHMiS is an end to end web-based solution, catering to various departments like patient care system, OPD, pharmacy, OT, laboratory information management, bio-medical, blood bank, radiology PACS, MRI , CSSD, EMR, RFID management soon.

Ramesh Subramaniam, MD Idhasoft said, “iHMiS is the only product, which combines rich healthcare functional features and integration to some of the best medical equipment. The product has been developed using Microsoft Dot Net and J2EE Platform and therefore has been built with current and future demands of all customers – local/International as the product conforms to global norms and process like HIPPA/JCI/WHO etc.”

The application follows a modular approach and is customised to suit the requirements of a 50 to 5000 bedded hospital. The product is also well integrated with popular ERP products like oracle and SAP. Idhasoft plans to further invest several million dollars to further bring in newer products ranging from clinical research to RFID etc. He further added, “In Pune, it has already won its first customer from a large infrastructure based company, which is building a chain of hospital across Pune and other cities.” Headquartered in India, Idhasoft currently has operations in Atlanta, Georgia, California (Redwood). It provides end-to-end solutions for organisations across retail, banking, financial services, manufacturing, healthcare and insurance domains.

Idhasoft is one of the fastest growing private companies in India. Idhasoft’s goal is to generate USD 200-250 million revenue in this fiscal year and be amongst the top 50 IT companies by December 2010. In India, Idhasoft markets its product jointly with IBM, where customer a well integrated and tailored to the IBM series of server range of products.

PwC backs PPP in healthcare

The huge investments required to bridge the gap between the demand for healthcare and the existing supply can only be met through public private partnership, points out a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

Health is a state subject and governments are actively courting private industry in healthcare.

The PPP experience in India and other developing countries in Asia suggest five common models, based on social marketing, social franchising, contracting in, contracting out and equity arrangements. However, the Asian experience revealed challenges in the healthcare sector, like the need to have an appropriate policy framework backed by an appropriate institutional mechanism.

Another problem in PPP was use of generic contracts without any reference to specific indicators like number of free treatments to be offered by the government and cost of serving the below poverty line (BPL) policies.

Also, analysis of PPP arrangements in the Indian health sector and elsewhere showed that recourse mechanism available in case of default by either partner was rather weak, the study points out.

There was perceived imbalance of power in the PPP partnership, with the government emerging as the dominant partner. Further, the absence of established accreditation standards for ensuring quality of healthcare services impacted government’s ability to ensure consistent service from the private partner.

High interest rates and turbulence in the equity markets created the need for newer norms for risk capital investments in hospitals. Recently, Apax Partners picked up 1.7 per cent stake in Apollo Hospitals, taking its total stake at 15 per cent.

Fortis Healthcare adopted the PE route too. Similarly, smaller firms like R G Stone Clinic and Dr Lal Path Labs and Metropolis also received PE funding.

EZ-CAP, InterComponentWare form strategic partnership

MZI HealthCare, LLC (MZIHC), and InterComponentWare, Inc. have announced a strategic partnership to deliver eHealth solutions to Independent Practice Associations (IPAs) and health plans nationwide. MZIHC is a leading vendor of health plan software and offers the widely used EZ-CAP(R) product for claims adjudication. ICW is a global leader in eHealth technology solutions that provide secure access to aggregated patient data and interoperability across disparate systems.

The companies have complementary solutions that provide IPAs and health plans with clinical and administrative patient data in a dashboard view, accessed via a secure web browser. Having an electronic patient record available at the point of care improves the quality of care delivery and lowers costs by providing actionable and comprehensive information to providers in a single view.

A key feature of the solution is the ability to leverage an organisation’s existing infrastructure.

A defining characteristic of ICW’s solution is its flexibility in aggregating data from EZ-CAP along with other data sources such as pharmacies, laboratories, hospitals, and physicians offices, and providing core information in the form of an electronic patient record.

Jeremy Coote, CEO of ICW Inc., notes, “Connectivity and the ability to deliver true interoperability are critical factors in the success of this partnership. By combining the EZ-CAP platform and ICW solutions, we can deliver relevant data to all stakeholders in the care continuum, when and where it is needed. Moreover, our customers will have an extendable platform, ready for the integration of value-added applications.” ICW has recently implemented its interoperable solution at an existing EZ- CAP customer in southern California.

Barco upgrades 3D imaging software

Belgium medical imaging specialist Barco has released an updated version of its Voxar 3D advanced visualisation software suite, integrated into Agfa’s IMPAX picture archiving and communication system.

Version 6.3 of Voxar is said to provide streamlined imaging workflow, enabling physicians to read and report their studies faster and more efficiently. Using the new software, a PACS workstation user can now move from 2D images to creating MIP, MPR, 3D or 4D reconstructions.

Barco says the new Voxar 3D suite is available with a full set of integrated clinical applications. These include VesselMetrix for quantitative 3D vessel analysis; CardiaMetrix for CT cardiac analysis; ColonMetrix for CT colonography; and PET-CT Fusion for the interpretation of whole body oncology studies. Barco’s Voxar 3D version 6.3 enhances IMPAX with advanced visualisation. It combines speed, easy access and advanced functionality in a package that is efficient, reliable and cost-effective. Voxar 3D is said to be designed to optimise the ease-of-use and productivity of the daily imaging workflow. The software enables advanced visualisation accessible on any IMPAX workstation over a standard 100 Mbps hospital network. Voxar 3D also delivers fast loading. With the client-server ‘Enterprise’ version, loading an entire 1000-slice series in full diagnostic quality is said to take around 10 seconds, while a 2000-slice series takes about 13 seconds. With the introduction of version 6.3, Barco has also put more emphasis on cost-efficiency. It makes use of powerful, off-the-shelf server technology and graphics cards, allowing users to benefit from the latest IT advances at a lower cost. Barco designs and develops visualisation products for a variety of selected professional markets. The company had sales of 747m in 2007.

Seattle fund bankrolls Asian private hospital chain

Columbia Pacific, a Seattle investment firm, said it has raised USD 135 million to go after the Indian market. Its Asian venture, Columbia Asia, has 13 facilities in Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam – and expects to have 39 by the end of the decade, more than half in India.

The latest investment is expected to bring the total equity raised by Columbia Asia to USD 325 million.

Columbia Asia’s operations began in 1994, when Chairman Rick Evans, previously with Columbia Pacific, opened an extended-care facility in Malaysia, then one of Southeast Asia’s blossoming “Tiger Economies.” The idea was to adapt business methods honed in U.S. health-care management to private hospitals serving the region’s budding middle class.

Now India, with its booming economy and giant population, is looking more like the land of opportunity. “It took me one day of driving around Bangalore, India, to see the opportunity was unbelievable,” Evans said. The southeastern city is India’s Silicon Valley, housing Microsoft’s research campus, among others. Middle-income households there were “underserved,” he said.

India’s economy grew at a pace of 9 percent last year, but it still lags behind in healthcare services. It has 1.5 beds per 1,000 people, half the rate of Brazil and China.

The company’s growth is in part driven by the expansion of private health insurance in Asia. About 70 percent of the company’s revenues come from insurer payments, Evans said. Columbia Asia already has five facilities open in India, but expansion there presents its own set of challenges. For one, trained nurses are hard to keep, as many are lured away by jobs in the U.S. and other countries, where their skills are in high demand.

Global Hospitals to launch a 500-bed facility soon

Multi-speciality healthcare provider Global Hospitals Group will soon launch a hospital with 500 beds in Chennai. The hospital, which already has its presence in Hyderabad and Bangalore, would also be setting up a hospital each in Mumbai and Kolkata. It is claimed they are the first to have the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Computer Tomography (CT) facility, which has been set up at a cost of INR 16 crore.

This machine has been imported from the United States and it would provide information regarding the stage of the disease in a patient. “The structure and function of a body can be identified using PET CT facility,” Nuclear Medicine Physician Sumathi said.

So far, we have diagnosed around four cases using this facility and on a day about six to eight cases can be done, she added. “Earlier, for doing this scan, patients were airlifted to Mumbai for treatment” she said, adding, with this facility being set up here in Chennai, patients can be treated here itself.

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