Of Radiology, Pathology, GE, Siemens, and Philips

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WHY THE SUDDEN INTEREST IN IN VITRO DIAGNOSTICS (IVD) by companies serving radiology? Over the past 12 months, what motivated General Electric to spend $8.13 billion and Siemens AG to spend $7.1 billion to acquire their own large IVD manufacturers?

I suspect the answer is: information. In healthcare, radiology and laboratory medicine have two things in common. First, each specialty is essential in helping physicians diagnose disease. Second, each specialty produces large amounts of information, most of which is useful to retain in the patient’s permanent medical record.

In recent years, digitization of radiology images and software systems to capture, to study, to store, and to share this information has become a big business. Most large hospitals are spending heavily to digitize the output of the radiology services and GE, Siemens, and Philips are major providers of these imaging systems.

What other medical service generates large amounts of information that makes up a major part of every patient’s medical record? It is laboratory medicine: clinical laboratory and anatomic pathology testing. Furthermore, as a growing number of genetic and molecular assays gain clinical acceptance, the amount of lab test data that must be captured, analyzed, and stored increases exponentially. The increased volume of such data already stresses the storage capacity of laboratory test data bases.

It is my belief that the world’s largest suppliers of radiology systems and software share a strategy of providing information systems which combine the data from radiology and laboratory medicine. As this happens, they control the huge majority of information that make up the individual patient’s electronic medical record (EMR).

As a business strategy, this has two complementary strengths. First, it positions these imaging companies to integrate imaging and in vitro diagnostics as technology and research reveals new clinical relationships between imaging and laboratory testing. Second, as the producer of informatics systems that collect, analyze, store, and share diagnostic data from imaging and lab testing, these companies position themselves to be major suppliers of informatics solutions to healthcare—at a time when integration of medical software systems is a major goal of health systems worldwide.


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