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ALI moves beyond ultrasound to support multimodality PACSCanadian firm continues to grow international presenceALI Technologies was one of the first companies to recognize the appeal of the miniPACS concept to customers. Focusing on
Canadian firm continues to grow international presence
ALI Technologies was one of the first companies to recognize the appeal of the miniPACS concept to customers. Focusing on digital image management of ultrasound images, ALI has built an impressive installed base, and along with Acuson of Mountain View, CA, remains one of the two dominant firms in ultrasound miniPACS.
More than 200 ultrasound departments employ ALI's UltraPACS. While business prospects remain positive for this modality, the company has begun to broaden its product line beyond its traditional base, said Greg Peet, president and CEO.
The company is expanding with UltraPACS NT Version 4, a Windows NT-based image management system that can support major medical image modalities (PNN 11/98). Beta testing will be conducted at Tower Radiology in Los Angeles in December, and shipments will begin in February.
"We've developed a strong market position in ultrasound, and we want to continue to provide the best solution we can for that sector," Peet said. "But an increasing number of customers would like us to do more. We have to help our clients extend into other modalities."
ALI got its start in Vancouver in 1986. The firm initially focused on developing a breast cancer detection concept that employed a combination of visible light and ultrasound. While the approach worked reasonably well, the advent and subsequent popularity of low-dose mammography led management to drop plans to commercialize the product, Peet said.
Their experimental approach also employed digital storage of ultrasound images, however, and the experience led the company to develop an ultrasound miniPACS in 1988. That year, the company's four developers introduced the first version of the product, a PC-based, local area network image management system called MiniPACS. Interestingly, ALI even trademarked the term miniPACS, but let the trademark lapse in 1992. That offering was installed at five sites during five years.
Subsequent releases of the product line, now called UltraPACS, have added improved functionality.
The release of UltraPACS NT Version 4 represents a major evolution in the product line, however. In addition to support for all major medical imaging modalities. Version 4 also brings UltraPACS to the Windows NT platform, an operating system that has become ubiquitous in the PACS marketplace. The new package is scalable from a single ultrasound department solution up to a filmless hospital system, Peet said.
With the new release, image data from multiple facilities can be integrated into a single, centralized database, Peet said. In addition, customers can interface with other types of healthcare information systems, he said.
As a small company, ALI has benefited from relationships with other PACS vendors. In March 1997, multimodality giant GE Medical Systems of Milwaukee acquired a 19.9% equity position in ALI. ALI provides products to GE, Siemens Medical Systems of Iselin, NJ, and Hewlett-Packard of Andover, MA.
ALI also has contributed an image viewer for use in the RIS produced by Tucson-based Sunquest Information Systems, Peet said.
The company has partnered with IBM to develop a regional image archive in Canada (PNN 8/97). Technology developed on that project was employed in UltraPACS NT Version 4.0, Peet said.
In addition, ALI has built up its direct sales force to nine executives. Earlier this year, ALI also acquired its European distributor SeppMed (PNN 5/98) and launched its own European sales operations. The European division met its sales goals during the previous quarter and strong growth is expected in future quarters, Peet said.
PACS industry veteran Tony Lombardo (PNN 8/98) heads a temporary U.S. sales office in the Milwaukee area along with former GE employee John LaLonde. The U.S. sales group has been bolstered by the hire of Bing Teng as director of corporate accounts. Teng, who also comes to ALI from GE's Integrated Imaging Solutions group, is based in Los Angeles. ALI is considering setting up its U.S. operations in a larger office closer to ALI's Vancouver operations, Peet said.
ALI has carved a successful niche in the ultrasound miniPACS sector. The broader image management market represents an excellent growth opportunity for ALI, however, and ALI appears to have made a wise decision to participate in this sector.
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While continuing to emphasize its ultrasound miniPACS offerings, ALI has expanded its product line to support multimodality digital image management.