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Imaging and interoperability solutions provider Merge Healthcare Incorporated (MRGE - Analyst Report) recently disclosed that according to a market study conducted by provider of business analysis IHS Inc. (IHS - Snapshot Report), it was declared as the leading provider for vendor-neutral archive (VNA) solutions in the Americas and worldwide.

Per findings, Merge’s iConnect Enterprise Archive, the foremost standalone VNA in the industry, contributed 22.7% to worldwide VNA-stored studies. Moreover, the company emerged as the leading player in the Americas on the back of 32.6% share in total archived studies in 2012.

Merge customers have stored over 37 million studies in total. This accounts for more than 15 billion images archived worldwide. This reflects that Merge’s image interoperability and connectivity platform iConnect Enterprise Archive has witnessed widespread uptake. Per management, the recognition from IHS reflects the excellence and rank of Merge’s iConnect Enterprise Archive.

According to IHS, the market size for VNA solutions is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.4% through 2016 i.e., from 162.3 million studies in 2012 to roughly 366.3 million studies by 2016.

With greater adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) in doctor’s offices, hospitals and imaging centers, the need for data exchange is on the rise. Against this backdrop, a reliable imaging interoperability platform becomes significant as a VNA.

Based on IHS forecast and market dynamics, we are upbeat about Merge’s growth prospects over the long haul. However, the company has been struggling with its quarterly results as losses have widened over the last few quarters.

We remain concerned about declining Medicare reimbursement for advanced medical imaging that could negatively affect hospital and imaging clinic revenues, thereby reducing demand for imaging-related software and services offered by Merge. Moreover, the company’s growth prospect is highly dependent on capital investments by hospitals for advanced imaging solutions, which are in turn tied to the general economic conditions.

Currently, Merge carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Although we prefer to avoid Merge, other stocks such as Medidata Solutions, Inc. (MDSO - Snapshot Report) and Herbalife Ltd. (HLF - Snapshot Report), carrying Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) warrant a look.

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