Creating a unified vision: Widmann and Cermin on Konica Minolta’s Viztek acquisition

Industry watchers seemed intrigued but not especially surprised when Konica Minolta Medical Imaging announced its acquisition of 100 plus-employee Viztek in early October. The response was understandable, as the fusing was equal parts bold and sensible. 

“Since health insurance reform took effect in the U.S., the healthcare sector has accelerated initiatives to drive productivity and provide economic value,” Bloomberg Business noted in its coverage of the acquisition. “These changes and trends have increased the need to share diagnostic imaging information and healthcare records among healthcare institutions.”

For New Jersey-based Konica Minolta Medical Imaging, having Viztek under its umbrella spells an efficient way to beef up its Healthcare IT solutions and broaden its Primary Imaging Solutions portfolio in pursuit of delivering the best solution for value-based care. This includes well-established product lines in digital radiography (DR) and ultrasound as well as its healthcare IT solutions. The acquisition is expected to assist customers in navigating healthcare’s evolution from a volume-based model to one rooted in value.

Joe Cermin, CEO, Viztek

For North Carolina-based Viztek, being a Konica Minolta subsidiary will mean, among other things, fulfilling the 16-year-old vision of Joe Cermin, Viztek’s founder and CEO, to help improve healthcare not just in the U.S.A. but all over the world. The move also builds on the big year that 2015 has been for the company, which earlier won FDA approval for its web-based PACS and EHR platform, called Exa, and set company records in sales of software and of its new ViZion + Wireless DR panel.

David Widmann, President and CEO of Konica Minolta Medical Imaging, a business unit of Konica Minolta, Inc., which is headquartered in Japan and employs more than 41,000 people in 49 countries, joined Cermin in a joint interview with ImagingBiz to discuss the acquisition.

When ‘if’ became ‘when’  

David Widmann, President/CEO, Konica Minolta Medical Imaging USA

“For us it was easy to look toward Viztek and see its capabilities,” Widmann says. “We were well aware of their presence. As we had been building a portfolio around primary imaging for a couple of years, the timing was right to make the match for our business, and more importantly, for our customers. Our focus on primary imaging is the ideal fit for what our customers are asking for, and this acquisition uniquely places us in the healthcare IT space and helps us fulfill the three pillars of our Primary Imaging strategy—Digital Radiography, Ultrasound and Healthcare IT and related services that connect everything.”

Widmann adds that the two companies share a similarly energetic and innovative corporate culture, which sped the acquisition from an “if” to a “when” very soon after Konica Minolta initiated talks earlier this year.

Cermin says: “We saw that their approach to business is a mirror to ours, except they have a much bigger and more powerful name. It was a natural propellant for Viztek to say, ‘We’re still going to be us. This doesn’t change us.’”

“When we completed the acquisition, we physically moved the head of our Healthcare IT R&D division to Viztek’s offices,” Widmann notes. “That is now the headquarters of our global Healthcare IT division. We did this to make a very strong statement that the platform Viztek has developed is the future of the Konica Minolta Healthcare IT strategy.”

Viztek has long prided itself on being nimble when it comes to innovating. Its record in coming up with successful new ideas owes, at least in part, to its small size. How will the company sustain its intellectual agility under a large corporate umbrella?

“Actually, I am very excited just talking about the subject of innovation,” Cermin replies. “Because Konica Minolta brings to the table a very strong commitment to R&D, we are reaping benefits from that already. We have immediately begun to incorporate improvements in our image acquisition software and even in our PACS.”

Happy accidents

The day ImagingBiz spoke to Cermin, both a representative of a large orthopedic practice and a Konica Minolta R&D executive were present.

In a real-world example of the previously described synergies, a request from the customer was quickly met with a solution from R&D. It was a "game changer," according to the orthopedic practice representative, and something that could have taken 18 to 24 months to show up in the Viztek software prior to the acquisition, Cermin says.  With the might of Konica Minolta R&D behind him, Cermin predicts: “We will be leapfrogging others in this market space, delivering high-end technologies like this example.”

“What Joe brings out is an example of something that we are seeing over and over again,” Widmann says. “Recognize that we’re really only up and running as of this week, and each day we are seeing ways to thread together our solutions.”

Healing healthcare of what ails it

Stepping back to review the importance of primary imaging, such as that provided by x-ray and ultrasound modalities, Widmann points out that these exams are done on nearly 99% of imaged patients. They account for 75% of all imaging procedures, and, by some estimates, they supply 80% to 85% of all imaging data on any given patient.

Today’s hospitals and health systems are “looking for efficiencies,” Widmann says. “The better we can do at improving efficiencies on the primary imaging side—by using digital imaging technologies, by using data, by enhancing workflow systems—the more effective a healthcare provider becomes at avoiding unnecessary CTs and MRIs [and other advanced imaging modalities].”  

Several studies have suggested that as many as 60% to 70% of all CTs ordered in the U.S.A. fail to add value, Widmann adds.

“If we can affect how well that very first image is used in the 99% of the patients in which it’s done, we can help our customers save money,” Widmann says, while improving the patient experience and maintaining care quality. “Clearly, that is what they are being asked to do in this environment.”

To this, Cermin adds that he is looking forward to offering healthcare providers even more innovative products in PACS, DR, healthcare IT and “all the categories in which Konica Minolta shines—in dose efficiency and high image quality and, of course, giving them more bang for their technology buck.”

As for the “tomorrow the world” part of his founding vision for Viztek back in 1999, Cermin doesn’t hesitate to express his satisfaction.

“The Exa software platform was a vision just three to four years ago. Now, with the help of Konica Minolta, that vision will be a reality, improving the business of healthcare, improving efficiencies for physicians, and improving timely diagnosis and treatment for patients all over the world.”