Vendor continues evolution from core scanner marketAcuson last week served notice that it has broader horizons inmind for its Aegis ultrasound image management system than justthe radiology market. The Mountain View, CA, vendor chose theAmerican
Acuson last week served notice that it has broader horizons inmind for its Aegis ultrasound image management system than justthe radiology market. The Mountain View, CA, vendor chose theAmerican College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans to unveilCasePro, the lead product in a series of new Aegis releases forthe echocardiography segment.
Acuson has sold 59 networked versions of Aegis since it beganshipping the product last year. All of those sales have been tothe general radiology segment, however, and up until now, Acusonhas not targeted the sizable echo market.
Acuson intends to change that by adapting Aegis to the specialdemands of echocardiography. Acuson has dubbed the new Aegis lineDigital Case Manager for Echocardiography, with CasePro the family'sfirst product. Acuson plans to begin deliveries of CasePro inthe fourth quarter of this year.
CasePro is an information subsystem for echo labs that is designedto improve efficiency by automating and computerizing many ofthe tasks performed by echocardiographers. The system handleseverything from patient scheduling to composing clinical reportsto faxing copies of reports to referring physicians.
A major advantage of CasePro is that it eliminates the needfor transcription services, which lengthen report turnaround timesand can introduce errors into reports, according to William Varley,vice president of cardiology business operations.
A typical configuration of CasePro consists of five Macintoshcomputer terminals that support autofax capabilities, a serverwith a patient database and a printer. The system does not physicallyinterface with ultrasound scanners and thus can be used in departmentswith equipment from a variety of manufacturers.
Physicians input their findings directly into CasePro whilethe exam is in progress. The system includes a clinical librarythat provides on-screen menus and dialog boxes that help guidethe exam. A graphing function helps cardiologists visualize clinicaldata and track a patient's progress. When the report is completed,the physician signs off on the report digitally and it is readyfor transmission to referring physicians. The system can knockdays off the time needed to produce an echo report, accordingto Nancy Keuch Rosa, marketing manager for Aegis cardiology.
"You can produce a report without the paper ever beingproduced in your lab," Keuch Rosa said.
Acuson believes CasePro will put echo labs on a firmer footingwhen competing for contracts with managed-care providers. In additionto reducing report turnaround time, it enables labs to providethe detailed reports on patient outcomes that HMOs and other providersare demanding.
"You can set up a database to track not only patient outcomesbut department and lab management," Keuch Rosa said.
The introduction of CasePro represents another step in theongoing evolution of Acuson away from its core scanner marketas it refines the Aegis product line. Aegis expanded the vendor'sreach into miniPACS, while CasePro is a similar move toward informationsystems. A radiology version of CasePro could be developed ifthe product is well received in the echo market, Keuch Rosa said.Acuson plans to develop a gateway to radiology and hospital informationsystems using the ACR-NEMA's DICOM 3.0 standard, which supportsthe standardization of text as well as images.
CasePro can also be seen as a preemptive strike against otherultrasound image management systems that may have a leg up inthe echo market due to their support for dynamic images. ATL'sAccess, for example, already supports dynamic clips, which wasa major factor in Kodak's decision to partner with ATL to bringAccess into its Imagelink PACS product (SCAN 2/1/95). ATL alsohas a strong presence in echocardiography image management throughthe ImageView workstation marketed by its Nova MicroSonics subsidiary.
CasePro will give Acuson a foothold in echocardiography thatcan be expanded when it introduces support for dynamic imagesin the future. Echo labs will be able to integrate CasePro withthe digital image management functions of the echo version ofAegis when it is available, and Acuson displayed dynamic clipson Aegis as a work-in-progress at the ACC meeting. Support fordynamic clips is high on Acuson's agenda, but the company decidedto implement CasePro first due to the immediate efficiencies itcan bring, regardless of whether digital image management is involved,he said.
"The images are great and are very important, but thatis not necessarily the first step," Varley said. "(CasePro)is the tool that provides the improved efficiency and the costreductions that allow (physicians) to better manage their businesses."