August 2008

Business News

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Remote patient monitoring market growing

The European remote patient monitoring market is growing, but slowly, due to limited government reimbursement, reveals research from Frost & Sullivan.

The market earned revenue stood at US$ 175 million in 2007 and is estimated to reach US$ 400 million by 2014. The heightened demands of an ageing population and a related increase in chronic diseases are encouraging market growth.

Innovative and advanced technology continues to play a significant role in the remote patient monitoring market. Technology is constantly changing to support better healthcare services, while steadily improving patient monitoring capabilities. However, the lack of adequate reimbursement streams will pose a major challenge to companies wishing to boost their unit sales and market revenues. Privacy and confidentiality issues are further clouding the market. “With no financial incentive for healthcare providers to implement this technology, providers are likely to view remote patient monitoring as an increase in workload without a subsequent hike in pay. On the other hand, connecting personal health information to the Internet exposes this data to more hostile attacks than paper-based medical records,” says the report.

Panacea Biotec enters hospital business

Vaccine maker Panacea Biotec is foraying into the hospital business by setting up a 220-bed multi-speciality hospital with Gurgaon-based Umkal Medicals. Panacea Biotec has picked up a 75% stake in Umkal’s project at Gurgaon and expects the hospital to be operational by January 2010. The Delhi-based pharma company has signed an agreement with shareholders of Umkal, who have three hospitals in Delhi and the national capital region (NCR). However, Panacea’s interest in Umkal will be limited to the Gurgaon project.

According to initial estimates the project will cost around INR 80 crore. The company will target overseas patients and affluent Indians, which would be close to 25-30% of the market. Panacea Biotec joint MD Rajesh Jain said, “It is the company’s long term strategy to enter the private healthcare segment to make the company a leading health management company. Based on the experience from this project, we may look at starting a hospital chain.”

Piramal Healthcare to invest in China

Piramal Healthcare will invest in manufacturing facilities in China and is looking for acquisitions. “We are looking at investing in manufacturing facilities in China that are good in large chemicals. We are continuously looking for acquisitions,” Piramal Healthcare Chairman, Ajay Piramal told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting recently.

The investment may be into a contract research manufacturing facility, he said. Piramal Healthcare, formerly Nicholas Piramal, has a sourcing office in Shanghai. The company’s facility in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, has a capacity utilisation of 60%. Piramal Healthcare has a presence in 80% of the therapeutic areas, he added.

BioLink achieves Microsoft certified partner status

BioLink was awarded Microsoft Competency in Independent Software Vendor (ISV)/Software Solutions. The Microsoft Certified Partner Status is achieved through BioLink’s extensive experience and expertise in building biometric ID systems for middle and large enterprises, its competency in developing ID solutions based on Microsoft technologies, and highly positive feedback from customers.

Of importance is the maturity of BioLink’s biometric offerings, which is best witnessed by BioTime, an integrated biometric Time and Attendance/Access control solution which has received the Microsoft certification.

All BioLink products run under Microsoft operating systems, including the latest Windows Vista version. In particular, BioLink IDenium is fully compatible with Microsoft Active Directory. Another example of Microsoft’s groundbreaking synergy with biometrics is the use of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) in BioLink’s universal ID platform BioLink BioID, providing for simplified check-in/check-out event registration for any applications requiring strong identification.

As an ISV Software Solutions partner, BioLink is going to primarily focus on further development of the biometric ID market by satisfying the ever increasing demands of corporate customers and public bodies; promotion of BioLink’s products via resources and support offered by the Microsoft Partner program; and ongoing integration of Microsoft’s most recent technologies and architectures into biometric ID systems

CBaySystems to invest US$ 25 mn and up headcount in India

With a view to rapidly ramp up operations and expand its footprint in the country, CBaySystems, has drawn up a US$ 25 m capex plan over the next two years.

CBaySystems also plans to up its headcount to 10,000 from the present 5,500 and set up 10 new centres, primarily in Tier II and III locations, by 2010.

The company is a global leader in the healthcare information management and patient financial services (PFS) space with over 400 large hospitals in the US, physician practices and clinics as its clients.

“We have lined up an US$ 25 mn investment for India over the next two years to fuel our expansion. We also plan to raise our headcount to 10,000 by then,” CBaySystems India Director and Chief Operating Officer, Dinesh Kumar, said.

The funds would be raised through internal accruals and “also through outside funding”, Kumar said. CBaySystems runs its global back-end operations from India through its wholly-owned subsidiary, CBaySystems India.

Headquartered in Mumbai, the company presently has 37 centres in the country including Bangalore, Hyderabad, a small unit in Vijayawada which it plans to expand, and Nagpur.

“We now plan to enter Tier II and III locations such as Hubli, Indore, Raipur, Belgaum and Coimbatore, apart from Chennai,” Kumar said.

Apollo Hospitals to hive off pharma retailing into separate company

Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd intends to spin off its pharma retailing business into a separate company, though not immediately.

At present, the company has 642 pharmacies across the country and the plan is to raise this number to 1,000 by February next year, according to Ms Shobhana Kamineni, Director, Apollo Hospitals, who looks after pharma retailing. Apollo has been selling medicines
through its pharmacies within the hospitals for a long time, but it was only in 2006 that the company began setting up standalone pharmacies.

Like for any retail business, the major challenge is finding manpower. Apollo has sought to tackle this problem by working with NGOs  and picking up youngsters from semi-urban centres and training them in pharma retailing. In this context, she criticised poaching by “new entrants”, who offer double the salaries and pick up Apollo-trained staff, even though such salaries could not be sustainable.

Apollo is also set to increase volume of medicines manufactured for it. Ms Kamineni observed that there is no need for Apollo to buy basic, over-the-counter medicines of other brands, paying more. “The generic strategy is to get the best material and get it manufactured,” she said. Shortly, Apollo would launch a “big vitamin range” under a separate brand, details of which would be disclosed in due course, she said.

HCL Info bags US$ 23 m deal for Pan-African project

Domestic IT major HCL Infosystems has bagged a US$ 23 million deal to implement IT infrastructure for the Pan-African e-Network Project, which provides tele-education and telemedicine. “HCL Infosystems will receive US$ 23 million from this project, which will span over 18-24 months, HCL Infosystems Executive VP George Paul told reporters.

The project would connect 53 African countries into one network. This is an initiative by Indian government to share its expertise in the fields of education and medicine. The network would benefit all the 53 African nations by providing tele-education, telemedicine, video-conferencing and VOIP services.

Facilitating education and knowledge sharing, the network would connect seven universities from India with five universities from Africa; the African centres will further be linked to one centre in each of 53 countries within the continent. The network would also connect 12 Super Speciality Hospitals from India with five from Africa. These Hospitals in Africa would also be linked to one remote hospital (Patient-End Locations) in each of the 53 countries as apart of the project to extend healthcare services to rural Africa.

Healthcare driving speech recognition technology growth

The automation of healthcare processes is the main driving force behind the growth of speech recognition technology, according to a report released by Datamonitor recently.

Healthcare currently represents 85% of the market for PC- and server-based speech recognition technologies. Patient information is gradually becoming digitised in order to address issues with delivering records and test results faster. By reducing the number of illegible handwritten documents and simplifying processes, providers can eradicate errors in diagnosis. Speech recognition is also being used for medical transcription, easing pressure on transcriptionists and allowing healthcare providers to save on staffing costs. The two leading suppliers, providing specialist solutions for the healthcare market globally are Philips and Nuance, the report says – with Philips taking a stronger position than its rivals in the UK.

The UK market has also seen the take-up of Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a consumer-based speech recognition system, designed mainly for customers with disabilities. There are also a few specialist resellers for speech and digital dictation in the UK, with companies including SRC and BigHand. The adoption of speech recognition still remains behind the US. In the UK, where the  healthcare market is in the public sector, there are limited budgets, as well as long sales cycles and it’s difficult to change technology patterns – unlike in the US where healthcare is revenue-driven.

ViScope enables doctors to visualise the heart sounds

HD Medical Services (India) Pvt. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of HD Medical Group Ltd. of Australia, has entered into an agreement with BPL for the distribution of ViScope 100. ViScope is an audio-visual cardiac screening device that enables doctors to visualise the heart sounds along with hearing them better. ViScope also enables the better detection of murmurs and other heart sound components so as to achieve an effective screening of cardiac anomalies.

The distribution agreement is valued at US$ 10 million. The company had filed 14 patents applications and obtained one patent in the field of cardiac auscultation. The chief inventor of the company, Arvind Thiagarajan, said the company had strategic collaboration with many leading global institutions for clinical trials and technology validation. Chief Operating Officer and Vice-President of BPL, A. Vijay Sinha, said the agreement is valid for two years and had decided to set up a team to train the doctors and explain the importance of the product.

Oracle announces creation of health sciences global business unit

Responding to continued growth in clinical trials as well as the increasing linkages across life sciences, diagnostics and healthcare, Oracle recently announced the formation of a new Global Business Unit focused on software applications for the health sciences industry. Neil de Crescenzo has been named Senior Vice President and General Manager for the business unit.

The Oracle Health Sciences Global Business Unit will build on Oracle’s proven track record in the sector. Today, all of the 20 top pharmas and 14 of the 15 top U.S. hospitals run Oracle.

Oracle today offers the sector’s most comprehensive suite of software applications for clinical development. These products can be deployed individually or together and include Oracle Clinical, Oracle Remote Data Capture, Oracle Thesaurus Management System, Oracle Adverse Event Reporting System, Oracle Life Sciences Data Hub and Oracle’s Siebel Clinical Trial Management System.

Oracle’s application platform for health sciences helps companies bring together all the critical aspects of the clinical development, safety and pharmacovigilance processes into a single, open platform built on state-of-the-art technology. The company also offers Oracle Healthcare Transaction Base, which helps healthcare companies simultaneously improve patient care and control costs by providing a foundation for interoperability and integration of existing and new systems.

Eastern Europe explores PFI for medical imaging

Public hospitals in Eastern Europe are exploring private finance service (PFI) approaches to enable them to invest in medical imaging equipment. According to a new report from Frost & Sullivan the market for Eastern European medical imaging modalities will double from 195m in 2007 to reach  411.8m by 2014. The report says insurance companies and individual operators are also supporting growth in the medical imaging modalities market in Eastern Europe.

The Frost & Sullivan analyst said: “The private sector owns and runs several diagnostic centres for MR and CT in Eastern Europe. Being self-financed, such centres are open to vendors’ recommendations of purchasing more sophisticated, high-end equipment that will enhance patient throughput and eventual return on investment.” The report says, however, that governments in Eastern Europe are relaxing policies and encouraging private sector investment in diagnostic services and the purchase of new medical equipment.

Currently, the market is dominated by old equipment, particularly in modalities that are the most popular and commonly used, such as X-rays. To date strict healthcare budgets and low reimbursement have resulted in little incentive to replace existing X-ray systems and purchase new ones. “Although countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are becoming more stable, they still experience many challenges that will need to be overcome if market success is to be sustained,” said Munshi.

Neon Healthcare ties with US based Hayes Lab

Neon Healthcare and Research Institute Ltd. has signed an agreement with US-based pathological lab Hayes Lab for outsourcing in the healthcare space.

“The joint venture with Hayes would work on different projects like teleradiology between US and India,” NHIL chairman and managing director Sajal Dutta said. “Hospitals in the US would send images through satellite to our facility in Kolkata and reporting would be done by specialists here,” Dutta said. The global outsourcing of lab activity was estimated to be INR 60,000 crore while India’s share was only INR 200 crore.

Neon Healthcare and Hayes Lab would also scout for buyout of pathological labs in Europe and US for faster growth, the company said. Dutta said the JV company has also put a proposal to the West Bengal government to set up 54 labs in districts, divisional and sub-divisional hospitals across the state. “We have made a presentation with the state health minister for setting up labs in government hospitals in PPP model. We will require about US$ 100 for setting up 54 advanced labs,” Dutta said. Asked about funding, Dutta said beside investment from the JV company, funds would be tapped from foreign institutional investors who were keen to invest. Meanwhile, Dutta said he was also setting up a speciality hospital here that would have 750 beds by December 2009.

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