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ATL adds miniPACS capability via marketing alliance with ALI


Vendors see expanding market for ultrasound miniPACSThe market for dedicated ultrasound miniPACS, thought to be in decline because of the rise of enterprise-wide image and information management systems, apparently still has plenty of life left.

Vendors see expanding market for ultrasound miniPACS

The market for dedicated ultrasound miniPACS, thought to be in decline because of the rise of enterprise-wide image and information management systems, apparently still has plenty of life left. ALI Technologies and ATL Ultrasound have signaled their faith in the continued viability of this niche with a joint marketing alliance. Vancouver, BC-based ALI and ATL, a Bothell, WA-based subsidiary of Philips Medical Systems, have signed a nonexclusive deal to cooperatively market the ALI UltraPACS line of image storage and management products in conjunction with ATL’s ultrasound scanners and DICOM connectivity devices to customers worldwide.

ATL’s previous ultrasound digital image management offering was provided by Kodak. That company decided in October, however, to shut down its Access ultrasound miniPACS operations to focus on PACS efforts in its Cemax-Icon PACS subsidiary in Fremont, CA. ATL, the original developers of Access, had sold its Nova Microsonics PACS subsidiary to Kodak in February 1997 (SCAN 2/19/97). Ironically, ATL executives at the time cited market demand for broader image management systems as reason for the divestiture of Nova Microsonics. Thanks to this month’s ALI agreement, ATL’s ultrasound customers again have direct access to a dedicated ultrasound miniPACS product.

“Philips has its own PACS and we were looking at whether we could solve our miniPACS problem with Philips technology,” said Bob Dockendorff, vice president of North American sales for ATL. “But Inturis is more for other modalities and doesn’t meet the unique requirements of ultrasound.”

For ALI, the deal adds another OEM client to an already impressive stable. ALI has had similar, long-standing co-marketing agreements with GE Medical Systems and Siemens Medical Systems (SCAN 3/27/95 and 8/02/95); in fact, negotiations for the ALI/ATL deal took the better part of a year primarily because GE and Siemens are major competitors with Philips, which acquired ATL last year (SCAN 10/14/98).

In addition, by combining ALI’s archiving products with ATL’s ultrasound systems and DICOM connectivity tools, ATL executives believe the deal will allow them to better meet the system integration needs of their customers. Indeed, the growing emphasis on system integration makes DICOM-compliant connectivity devices, such as ATL’s DiskLink, NetLink, and ResearchLink products, particularly important for ultrasound imaging.

“ATL holds a pretty strong position in the ultrasound market, and we always find value in an alliance with a strong ultrasound provider,” said Greg Peet, ALI CEO.

The agreement also expands the customer base for both vendors. Despite recent market emphasis on broader image management technology, the dedicated ultrasound miniPACS sector is actually expanding, according to Dockendorff. One reason for this is that ultrasound image management has certain unique characteristics, such as real-time color flow and cine loops, that make using a standard PACS for archiving and retrieval difficult.

“We think there is a requirement for image management, and we see it as a big growth opportunity in ultrasound,” Dockendorff said. “Ultrasound image management is a technical challenge in itself, and it is another step altogether to integrate it with a HIS or RIS. The key is the ability to tie into the main PACS.”

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