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Digital Arts & Sciences introduces PACS alternative


Digital Arts & Sciences introduces PACS alternativeImageAXS Pro-Med offers broad management solution Although many healthcare institutions long for the benefits that PACS can provide, the hefty price tags and radiology-centered

Digital Arts & Sciences introduces PACS alternative

ImageAXS Pro-Med offers broad management solution

Although many healthcare institutions long for the benefits that PACS can provide, the hefty price tags and radiology-centered nature of the technology often stand in the way. In response, Digital Arts & Sciences, an image management software developer, has developed ImageAXS Pro-Med, a program that allows clinicians to view and manage medical and document images, text, audio, and video data with a single application.

"Radiology accounts for only 20% of the overall photography expense in healthcare," said vice president of sales and marketing Michael Smith. "We propose to manage all the imaging that takes place within a healthcare institution, including radiology."

DAS hopes that ImageAXS Pro-Med will help hospitals implement enterprise-wide electronic patient records quicker by giving them one application for all imaging information. Hospitals currently use multiple software applications-many of which are mutually incompatible-to manage the wide range of patient information. And while radiology departments increasingly turn to automation tools such as PACS, nearly all healthcare departments use photography or imaging but do not typically employ any digital image management technology.

ImageAXS Pro-Med is a scalable offering and can be stored either on a physician's personal computer or, in larger versions, on a network server. It can act as its own archive or work in conjunction with a facility's database management software to enable that software to recognize and handle data from multiple sources. For example, it provides a single application that enables users to view document images, such as referral letters, side by side with patient images on a computer screen.

A C++-based application, ImageAXS Pro-Med supports input from nearly 50 file types, including DICOM 3.0 medical images and images from digital cameras, CD-ROMs, video cameras, slide scanners, and the Internet.

In the PACS realm, ImageAXS Pro-Med can work with existing PACS networks, or it can function as a stand-alone system, Smith said. Smith joined DAS in January from Informix Software, where he was director of worldwide healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing. Although radiology users typically employ Image AXS for viewing reference images, it could be used to make primary diagnosis, depending on the resolution of the monitor in use, Smith said. As a reseller of Sun Microsystems and Dell Computer equipment, DAS can provide the high-end hardware necessary to support primary diagnosis, he said.

ImageAXS Pro-Med comes with handy features such as voice and visual annotation, searching, and an electronic consultation telemedicine feature. E-C card-
a store-and-forward-style telemedicine technique-allows physicians to consult with other physicians via a secure e-mail message or by publishing the image on a Web page for Internet/intranet viewing.

DAS estimates that Image AXS Pro-Med will achieve a return on investment in six to 12 months through reductions in FTEs and the elimination of film, film processing cost, and film storage space.

Founded in 1989, the Alameda, CA-based company initially made an impact with its ImageAXS software for art museums, where the program was used to create digital art catalogs. An ImageAXS Pro version followed for desktop cataloging and electronic multimedia publishing. Following the success of the product in that market, DAS turned its attention to healthcare, which is now the company's prime focus. In 1996, the company formed a medical advisory board, which helped guide the technology to commercialization. In addition to healthcare image management, the company also provides a version of the technology to support pharmaceutical clinical trials.

Although DAS has not formally introduced ImageAXS Pro-Med to the medical community, versions of the software have been in clinical use for the last two years and have been installed at nearly 300 sites in 15 countries. Most of the sites are outside of the U.S., however, and the management team in place at the time of their installation had not determined that healthcare would be the prime focus for DAS. As a result, the company did not pursue a strong marketing strategy for ImageAXS Pro-Med. When a new team, including Smith, came on board early this year, the company elected to dedicate the company's resources primarily to healthcare and formalize the product's launch.

In addition to the turnkey, enterprise version, ImageAXS Pro-Med is available in two other versions. Designed for small-scale applications, ImageAXS Pro-Med Personal lists for $1000 per user. A department-level version typically costs $150,000 to $200,000. The department-level version includes a server license, as well as the necessary client applications. An enterprise-wide system, including a server, client applications, an Olympus digital camera, slide scanner, CD-ROM writer/recorder from Yamaha, CDs from TDK, and any necessary hardware and service, would cost approximately $1 million, Smith said.

ImageAXS Pro-Med is certified for use on six databases from Informix, Oracle, Microsoft, and Sybase. The client application is based on Windows NT or 95, while servers are either Unix or NT. The department-level version of ImageAXS Pro-Med typically runs on NT-based servers, while the enterprise versions are primarily Unix-based implementations, Smith said.

The software, now on version 4.0, has achieved its greatest penetration in France, where nearly 130 locations have installed the program. U.S. locations include sites such as the San Francisco VA Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco/Mt. Zion Medical Center. Since ImageAXS Pro-Med is designed to be a diagnostic aid, it did not require Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance, Smith said.

Future versions will include a higher level of DICOM 3.0 support. While ImageAXS Pro-Med 4.0 allows users to view DICOM 3.0 images, the next release will add the ability to read and store all of the DICOM image header information, Smith said. The release, called ImageAXS Pro-Med 4.01, will be available in July and will also add improved image acquisition and viewing capabilities.

As is typical for the company, DAS will distribute ImageAXS Pro-Med through indirect channels, including system integrators and exclusive distributor networks around the globe. The company is in the process of building a distributor network in the U.S., and the technology has also drawn interest from several electronic patient-record firms that want to add imaging capability to their systems, Smith said.

In Europe, DAS has signed an agreement with Norwegian systems integrator GL-Gruppen, which will exclusively resell the entire ImageAXS product family in Scandinavia. The company has also signed an exclusive deal with a Japanese distributor.

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