Cassling subsidiary leverages systems integration success

January 31, 2001

Given the growing number of healthcare organizations interested in moving their PACS capabilities outside of the radiology department, systems integration is emerging as a provocative market niche for PACS providers.Because the rest of the healthcare

Given the growing number of healthcare organizations interested in moving their PACS capabilities outside of the radiology department, systems integration is emerging as a provocative market niche for PACS providers.

Because the rest of the healthcare enterprise often remains dependent on film even after the radiology department goes filmless, many hospitals have not realized the full benefit of their PACS investments. This gap has prompted a number of vendorsÑincluding GE, Philips, Siemens, and SAICÑto develop whole business strategies dedicated to enterprise image distribution and storage.

Cassling Diagnostic Imaging (CDI) has gone one step further, establishing an entire subsidiary, Artesian Medical, to handle its growing systems integration business. The regional medical equipment provider used November's RSNA show to formally launch Artesian, which incorporates CDI's existing networking integration capabilities and 300-plus PACS installations.

"CDI is a regional entity and has been operating primarily as a distributor, which didn't fit our model as a nationwide network integration business," said Gary Sunsten, formerly vice president of CDI and now president of Artesian. "We are really a systems integrator, looking for best-of-class solutions."

Artesian is headquartered in Dallas, with service and support coming from CDI's hub in Omaha. The Omaha facility provides a 24-hour call center and newly established integration lab for design and testing of each customer site prior to installation.

With imaging industry veteran Dan Trott as Artesian's vice president of sales and marketing, Sunsten is crafting an integration strategy built around flexible, scalable, open systems that bypass the issue of product obsolescence. This approach, according to Sunsten, involves using existing hospital equipment and workstations to connect to the PACS and to accommodate new equipment as a facility expands.

"Most PACS (installations) do not focus on workflow and integration problems," he said. "We go to the customer and do a lot of work up front on workflow issues."

With this goal in mind, Artesian is making application service providers (ASPs) a key component of its network integration strategy. The company formed a strategic relationship with Inphact last June to offer its customers an ASP-based PACS. Through this partnership, Artesian installs all of the front-end equipment, including image capture, viewing, and redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID), and then links with Inphact's RadWeb product for Web-based radiology information systems (RIS), off-site storage, and distribution.

"For traditional PACS solutions, we do it all ourselves," Sunsten said. "If a customer wants an ASP, we partner with Inphact for storage and image and report distribution. We see this as a way to provide a fully integrated PACS on an ASP model."

The strategic relationship with Inphact is one of a growing number. Artesian's vendor partners include Applicare, Merge, Barco, Cisco, Fuji, FileLink, Dome, Rorke, Vidar, and Voxar; regional channel distribution partners include Delta, Radon, CMS, and Freedom Imaging. The company is also in discussions with some information systems vendors, although Sunsten points out that it already has the ability to integrate with any hospital information system (HIS) or RIS.

Artesian is also involved in some original product development, primarily through a partnership with MedQ, a small software development firm based in Dallas. MedQ was instrumental in developing Artesian's bidirectional HIS/RIS interface and its continuous voice recognition package, QSpeak, which is based on IBM's MedSpeak technology. Artesian is also working with MedQ to develop a voice command package for PACS. All of these products are intended to help position Artesian as a turnkey PACS provider and systems integrator.

"Hospitals are looking for ways to utilize the latest technology in a cost-effective manner across the entire scope of their healthcare services," Sunsten said. "That's why Artesian was formed: to address specific needs and to assist the customer through the entire process of going from analog to digital."