Digitizer firm Lumisys sees future in computed radiography marketCompany plans for beta units by end of this yearX-ray film digitizer manufacturer Lumisys of Sunnyvale, CA, last month provided the investment community with more details
Company plans for beta units by end of this year
X-ray film digitizer manufacturer Lumisys of Sunnyvale, CA, last month provided the investment community with more details about its plan to develop a low-cost computed radiography reader. In a speech to analysts and investors at the Hambrecht & Quist Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Lumisys president Dr. Philip Berman said that his company expects the CR market to be a robust area for growth in future years, despite competition from flat-panel digital detectors.
In giving the presentation, Berman was responding to concerns about the long-term growth prospects for film digitizers. These products have been integral to teleradiology and PACS networks, but face obsolescence due to CR and digital detector technologies that enable users to move digital image data directly into networks without first producing film. Lumisys makes some 90% of the laser film digitizers installed in the U.S., Berman said.
Lumisys has recognized the threat, and has made several recent acquisitions to help the company diversify. One such deal, the purchase of CompuRad in November, puts Lumisys squarely in the market for PACS software, archives, and other technologies. But Lumisys also believes that it can leverage CR technology it has developed for the nondestructive testing industry into a product for the medical market. Lumisys first announced the initiative in April (PNN 5/97).
Although the first CR systems hit the market 17 years ago, the technology has achieved only a 14% penetration of the U.S. market, Berman said, leaving ample room for growth. Indeed, analysts predict that CR will grow at a 30% to 40% rate over the next several years, and by 2000 the CR segment will be several times larger than the digitizer market.
"We think this is a wonderful market opportunity if addressed properly, and the drive toward PACS will drive these numbers as predicted by analysts," Berman said.
Lumisys has developed its CR technology in-house, rather than license it from market leader Fuji. Lumisys has been shipping a nondestructive testing product since 1996, and provided its technology to Kodak for incorporation into that company's Model 400 reader. Lumisys expects its medical CR reader to be in beta testing by the end of this year, and hopes to have a product shipping by the beginning of 1999.
Lumisys will try to differentiate its reader from others on the market using technologies acquired from CompuRad. The company's product will be a low-cost, compact unit designed to be used in a networked environment, Berman said. With connectivity, compression, and local archiving, the reader will encourage users to distribute their work to multiple locations rather than centralize it around a single reader.
Some industry pundits believe that flat-panel digital detectors will have the same impact on CR vendors that they will have on film digitizer firms, but Lumisys is siding with those who believe that CR's future is assured for years to come. In defending this position, Berman cited a recent article published in a supplement to Diagnostic Imaging in November 1997 by Dr. Eliot Siegel, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Maryland and chief of imaging at the VA Maryland Healthcare System. The article claims that CR will continue to make up the lion's share of studies for portable applications and remote low-volume sites until at least 2010, while film digitizers will be phased out by 2003. CR will also play a major role in total departmental digitization solutions. Flat-panel detectors will dominate the single-room replacement market, according to Siegel. Lumisys has taken these views to heart.
"What we expect to see is a robust market for digitizers as the PACS environment accelerates, with some persistence over the next 10 years," Berman said. "Nonetheless, the (majority) of the market looks to be CR, and we expect to be there."