Monday, March 18, 2019

Impact of the Philips-Carestream acquisition on the end users: Good, Bad?

Since the recent Philips acquisition of the Carestream IT business, I have received several phone calls and had discussions with both elated and very concerned end-users. Interestingly enough, the positive feedback was mostly from Philips PACS users and most concerns were expressed by Carestream clients.

The Philips users were mostly excited about the Carestream enterprise archiving and storage component, which hopefully will replace the proprietary Philips back-end and be able to integrate better with enterprise archiving systems such as VNA’s. It is no secret that the Philips proprietary image format storage works very well for the Philips workstation display as it provides great (perceived) performance but to get the data out of their system in a standard DICOM manner is not as easy. Synchronizing changes in the Philips archive with the VNA cannot be automated due to lack of the IOCM IHE profile support. It is very challenging to say at the least, judging from the spike in attendance in our DICOM classes from Philips users who want to learn how to use DICOM network sniffers to find out when, where, and why certain studies are not exchanged between the Philips and their VNA.

The strength of the Philips PACS system is definitely its radiology worklist, radiologists really like its user friendliness, and PACS administrators like it as they can train a new user in 15 minutes unlike some of the other PACS user interfaces. This is important if, for example, you get a new batch of 15 residents to train every couple of months. So, the ideal match would be the Philips front-end with the Carestream back-end, however, that goes against the current trend of EMR-driven worklists for PACS.

From Carestream customers, I have heard mainly concerns that Philips might “contaminate” their current relationships and/or upset their support and service structure. It is rather common when a new company takes over a smaller one in this industry to see people leave, service centers be consolidated, not always for the better, and support take a major dip. In addition, the product they are currently using or planning to purchase might become obsolete due to product consolidation, especially if the main objective of an acquisition was not the technology but buying the channel and existing customer base.

So, what can we expect? Time will tell, but the good news is that both companies have a culture that is different from many other players in this field, which I know first-hand having worked for both Philips and Carestream’s predecessor (Kodak). Consequently, I have some level of confidence that this is going to be a good thing. But again, only time will tell, and in the meantime as a Philips or Carestream customer you might want to ask for solid guarantees from your suppliers and keep all options open.