Analog imaging company builds PACS, CME line

November 20, 1991

Image PSL (formerly Image Premastering Services) has installedits first analog picture archiving and communication system, labeledImage Access, at the University of Southern California in LosAngeles. The St. Paul-based optical technology company is

Image PSL (formerly Image Premastering Services) has installedits first analog picture archiving and communication system, labeledImage Access, at the University of Southern California in LosAngeles.

The St. Paul-based optical technology company is looking forpartners to help market both Image Access and its line of videodiskmedical imaging teaching files, according to president Gale Howard.

Using its analog storage, transmission and display technology,Image PSL drastically underbid PACS competitor Siemens at USC,coming in at $440,000 compared to a bid of about $3 million bythe giant German medical imaging vendor. The smaller firm metsystem specifications and completed installation five months ago,he said.

Analog image handling removes many of the barriers that haveimpeded digital PACS development over the last decade, Howardsaid. Image Access raises storage capacity limits and trims retrievaltimes by transferring film x-ray images to analog videodisk viapatented optics. Images are maintained in analog form unless digitalprocessing is required.

Analog video output from digital modalities is transferreddirectly to the network. Images are digitized between archiveand digital workstation when digital processing is desired.

The problem with digital PACS is that a great deal of datais created, making storage and handling cumbersome. A computerfile holding data for a digitized chest x-ray, for instance, requiresabout 6 megabytes of storage. Large digital PACS developed byother vendors have had a storage capacity of less than 6000 imagesand a retrieval time of eight minutes to get images from archiveto screen, Howard said.

"PACS has turned into a four-letter word because of problemsin digital storage," he said. "We can put 72,000 chestfilms on a $395 videodisk. How are you going to store 72,000 chestfilms (digitally) at 6 megabytes apiece? We can put 108,000 high-qualityimages on a 12-inch platter and provide access in the blink ofan eye."

IMAGE PSL DEVELOPED IMAGE ACCESS in collaboration with Tecon,a Redmond, WA, supplier of video frame-grabbing boards. Whileboth firms worked on the USC installation, the relationship isnow in flux, according to G. Wayne Smith, Tecon president andCEO.

Tecon originally teamed with Image PSL three years ago as aprovider of analog-to-digital conversion technology and a digitalworkstation for the analog PACS (SCAN 3/1/89). The firm eventuallydeveloped software for the entire system and built the film transferstation for Image Access, which incorporates the Image PSL opticstechnology.

"Tecon developed the Image Access system at USC,"Smith said. "We developed it in its entirety except for (theoptical) lenses."

If the partnership is terminated, Tecon will have the rightsto develop a similar analog PAC system on its own or with anotherpartner, using different optics technology, he said.

Tecon built the film transfer station under contract to ImagePSL and did a good job, Howard said. The firm does not, however,have rights to the technology involved, he added.

The large lenses, which collimate light and allow for accuratecopying of the film images, are difficult to manufacture. ImagePSL has the molds used in the process. The lenses themselves cannotbe patented, but the technique involving lenses, light and camerasis patented, Howard said.

Tecon also wrote system software for Image Access under contractto Image PSL, and the two firms jointly own rights to this technology.The system would not function without the Image PSL optics, however,Howard said.

The analog-to-digital conversion technology is Tecon's proprietaryproduct, but there are alternative suppliers, he said. Image PSLincreased its own development resources to create the direct digitalimage-capture system and its own digital workstation, which isoffered along with the Tecon workstation.

Image PSL has realized a substantial marketing advantage inthe endorsement of its optical image-capture technology by theAmerican College of Radiology. Three years ago, the ACR choseto use Image PSL's optical image-capturing technology to convertits cumbersome film teaching files to videodisk. Since then, thefirm has signed contracts with the Mayo Clinic and other leadinghealth-care institutions to market continuing medical education(CME) products using analog images on disk, Howard said.

The firm created a videodisk teaching file on MR images ofneurological tumors using 12,000 film images from the Mayo Clinic.This product sells for $735. Digitizing and copying the 12,000films would have cost about $4 each--or almost $50,000, he noted.

Image PSL has also developed a teaching file on color-flowDoppler imaging using images from Acuson equipment. The ultrasoundvendor was impressed with the concept and asked Image PSL to createa videodisk product for its own marketing and user education purposes,Howard said.

Although Image PSL granted Acuson an exclusive agreement foruse of its analog imaging technology in ultrasound applications,the company plans to refrain from exclusivity in other modalities,he said.

Image PSL created a videodisk for CT vendor Imatron that wasdisplayed in Imatron's booth at the 1990 Radiological Societyof North America meeting. Imatron will show a second version atnext month's RSNA meeting, Howard said.

Images displayed on televisions built over the past three yearsare capable of up to 600-line resolution, he said. The firm hopesthat radiologists and other medical specialists will make useof the opportunity to combine continuing education at home withviewing the latest movies on videodisk.

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • GE Medical Systems and Cytocare are in litigation overissues related to a failed distribution agreement for Medstonelithotripters. GE-CGR, Medstone's parent company, filed suit initially,claiming $3.5 million plus miscellaneous damages, according toCytocare. The smaller Irvine, CA, firm said it intends to countersuefor multimillion-dollar damages plus punitive awards for GE's"intentional breach of ... duties under the contract."

GE-CGR is the Paris-based European subsidiary of the world'slargest medical imaging vendor. The distribution contract underquestion involved GE's sale of Medstone shockwave lithotriptersin Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

  • Mallinckrodt Medical of St. Louis is studying the feasibilityof manufacturing molybdenum-99 (Mo99) in conjunction with theNetherlands Energy Research Foundation (ECN). The study will takeplace at ECN's facility adjacent to Mallinckrodt's radiopharmaceuticalplant in Petten, Holland.

Mo99 is used in production of technetium-99m radioisotopesfor nuclear imaging. Mallinckrodt currently purchases technetiumfrom outside sources. If the plans work out, production may beginin the mid-1990s, Mallinckrodt said.