Consolidation breeds change in vendor strategies at RSNA 2000

January 17, 2001

It was clear from the 2000 RSNA show that the structure of the imaging industry is changing. In fact, as is typical of a maturing industry, consolidation has emerged as the new business model. While the clear direction of CT and MR technology is

It was clear from the 2000 RSNA show that the structure of the imaging industry is changing. In fact, as is typical of a maturing industry, consolidation has emerged as the new business model. While the clear direction of CT and MR technology is inspiring new alliances and partnerships, the myriad possible directions of PACS/IT leave room for small companies to bring new ideas to market.

At the 2000 RSNA show, ADAC and Agilent Technologies had been brought into circling Philip's camp, SMV was in the grip of GE, and Acuson was part of Siemens, in a deal the two companies finalized just prior to the meeting. It was the second stage of a consolidation phase that began in earnest some two years ago, most notably with the acquisition by Philips of ATL and the division of Elscint into pieces picked up by Marconi and GE Medical Systems.

That this year's acquisitions were complementary was not always obvious. Philips needed nuclear medicine, a gap filled by ADAC, but the company already had a strong ultrasound offering before making its play for Agilent. GE was a strong contender in nuclear medicine before approaching SMV. But rather than seeing the end of certain offerings, as typically happens when similar product lines are acquired, executives on the exhibit floor and in private meetings with DI SCAN professed a vision of extended product offerings.

Judging by the offerings on the show floor, it is no longer enough to have just one hybrid CT/PET scanner. The market can support a range of these products from high- to low-tier. Ditto for MRI, which has a whole new product class to show off populated by high-,mid-, and low-tier open scanners. CT is rapidly moving toward multislice technology, offering a dizzying array of dual- and quad-slice products while promising eight-, 16-, and even 32-slice versions in the future. Single-slice spiral scanners persist, although vendors were compelled in most cases to offer upgrade paths to the multislice configurations. In ultrasound, the number of platforms serving radiology, cardiology-even ob/gyn-is showing signs of increasing until the market can sort out the best of breed and R&D can deliver them in new packages.

This new way of thinking was pervasive-except in digital x-ray and PACS/IT. Whereas advanced MR, CT, hybrid nuclear/CT, and even ultrasound platforms promise to extend the clinical reach of their respective modalities, the most digital x-ray and PACS/IT could muster was the hope of performing current procedures faster or cheaper.

It is a matter of evolutionary development that separates these two from the rest of diagnostic imaging, as digital x-ray and networking technology have yet to achieve a critical mass of subscribers. Current and near-term technologies are still addressing fundamental concepts: digital for x-ray, networking for PACS/IT. The early stage of development in which digital x-ray and PACS/IT still find themselves and the consequent plethora of vendors may, however, leave room for future consolidation, particularly since there are virtually no independent vendors of other imaging modalities left.

In this, the first of a two-part DI SCAN report on the RSNA meeting, we examine CT, MR, and PACS, detailing new offerings in the context of major trends and issues. In part two, which will appear with the Jan. 31 issue, we look into nuclear medicine (with its new world of hybrid technology), ultrasound, computer-aided detection, radiography, and mammography.