Asia-Pacific imaging consumers want technology at a good price

March 16, 1994

CT price competition helps this modalityUsers in developing world medical markets want low-cost, high-technologyimaging equipment. Don't we all? Siemens hopes to meet this demand-- particularly in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region -- witha

CT price competition helps this modality

Users in developing world medical markets want low-cost, high-technologyimaging equipment. Don't we all? Siemens hopes to meet this demand-- particularly in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region -- witha new solid-state radiography/fluor-oscopy system.

Sireskop CX is one of the first new products to come out ofa former East German plant taken over by the giant German medicalimaging vendor (SCAN 4/24/91). There wasn't much demand for theold imaging products produced by Transformatoren-und RoentgenwerkGmbH (TUR) of Dresden, so Siemens revamped the TUR factory toproduce equipment that is up to international standards.

"We invested a good deal in the factory to be able todesign and produce (the Sireskop CX)," said Helmut G. Salger,executive director for the German-based national and internationalbusinesses of Siemens' medical engineering group. "The systemhas been well accepted. We have had orders already in Russia.The first unit (in Asia-Pacific) will be placed at a screeningclinic in Singapore."

Siemens showed Sireskop CX at the January International Congressof Radiology in Singapore. The unit is the vendor's first R/Fsystem to use solid-state charge-coupled device (CCD) camera technology.Siemens developed an entirely new video image chain for the product,while keeping costs down, Salger said.

CCD camera technology will serve developing markets well becauseof its compact size, durability and ease of service. Eventually,CCDs should find use in all types of high-technology imaging equipment,he said.

Siemens also anticipates strong demand in developing marketsfor its low-field resistive Magnetom Open MRI system, introducedat December's Radiological Society of North America conference(SCAN 11/17/93) and shown at the ICR, Salger said. Demand forOpen in Asia-Pacific may derive more from specialists, such asorthopedic physicians, than from radiologists.

"Radiologists here (in Asia-Pacific) have access to MRtechnology, mostly in private settings. We really don't know whereMR is going. It might go to radiologists, but a system like (Magnetom)Open will also find a place with other medical disciplines,"he said.

Open's costs are substantially less than superconductive systems,said Frank Krug, Siemens senior marketing director for the Middleand Far East. Basic energy and other operating costs can run aslow as $4 per patient, he said.

"It is easy to install. If you have an R/F room, thatwould be suitable for Open," Krug said. "It brings newaccess to MR technology."

CT demand is greatest in Asia-Pacific. As CT prices drop andperformance improves, demand for this modality should continueto pick up in Asia-Pacific, Salger said. CT is the fastest growingmodality in the region, although proliferation of the technologydiffers among Asia-Pacific's diverse national markets.

Japanese CT suppliers have a lock on the very low end of themarket in Asia-Pacific. CT scanners sell for as little as $200,000,Krug said. However, average prices range from $400,000 to $600,000in the region.

"Price erosion is very tough in this medical business,"Salger said. "CT is a good example of (how users are receiving)more technology at a lower price. These (developing) markets shouldn'tbe characterized as low-end, though. Customers are demanding.When they invest money, they want high technology."

Overall, the market for medical imaging equipment in Asia-Pacificappears to be growing at about 10% a year, Salger said. This marketis still far smaller in absolute terms than that of the U.S.,he noted.

"If there were a growth rate in the U.S. of 2% to 4%,the volume gain there would by far exceed the total volume here(in developing Asia-Pacific markets outside Japan)," Salgersaid.

While upgrading health-care delivery systems is a high priorityfor most nations of the region, it is not necessarily a top priority,he said.

"These countries are very dynamic, but they have otherpriorities as well, such as building their communications systemsand energy supply," he said.

Over the next decade, chances are strong that health care willmove up in the various national priority lists and investmentsin new equipment acquisition will increase, he said.

South Korea is perhaps the most advanced nation in the regionafter Japan in terms of domestic production of high-technologyimaging technology.

Medison, a supplier of ultrasound and x-ray equipment, receiveda boost recently from a mini-trade war between Korea and Japan,Krug said. Japan's trade surplus caused the Korean governmentto block all Japanese ultrasound imports, he said.