First DIN-PACS award goes to IBM as computer giant wins Portsmouth bid

March 4, 1998

Firm bests Agfa in race for first DIN-PACS sitePurchase order #0001 in the U.S. military's Defense Imaging Network-Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (DIN-PACS) project has been awarded to the consortium led by IBM's Global Government

Firm bests Agfa in race for first DIN-PACS site

Purchase order #0001 in the U.S. military's Defense Imaging Network-Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (DIN-PACS) project has been awarded to the consortium led by IBM's Global Government Industry division. IBM and its DIN-PACS partners last month learned that they have received a contract to install a $7.3 million PACS network at Portsmouth Naval Medical Treatment Facility in Portsmouth, VA.

The Portsmouth award is the first concrete indication that DIN-PACS will pay off for the teams led by IBM and Agfa, which won the Department of Defense's imprimatur to install the next wave of PACS at U.S. military facilities (SCAN 12/17/97). Indications are that the military's interest in DIN-PACS may even be higher than initially expected.

The Portsmouth award involves the installation of a PACS network at a new hospital that the Navy is building to replace an older facility, according to David Anderson, client executive for federal medical customers at the Bethesda, MD-based division. The new Portsmouth hospital is scheduled to open next year and should be filmless.

Also involved with IBM on the installation will be other members of its consortium. Applicare Medical Imaging is contributing workstation display software based on the Windows NT operating system, while ADAC Laboratories is contributing RIS software. Brit Systems is handling archives; DeJarnette Research Systems is taking care of connectivity; and Imation, Eastman Kodak, and Science Applications International are also playing roles.

IBM's receipt of the Portsmouth bid comes as a surprise, considering that the company is a relative newcomer to PACS when compared with Agfa. The company's Global Government Industry division, however, is no stranger to government work: The business has a long record of working with the government on complex projects that require a high level of systems integration. This experience is serving the company well in competing for DIN-PACS contracts at military hospitals, according to Anderson.

"They are interested in having a vendor taking best-of-breed solutions that exist in the marketplace and delivering them," he said. "They also like the independence of a systems integration technology company in helping them implement this, rather than a traditional film or medical device vendor."

Executives with Applicare believe that their company's long experience with display software built on the Windows NT standard may also have played a role in the sale. Applicare has been working with NT-based workstations longer than most other PACS firms, according to Ruud Kroon, managing director of the company, which is based in Zeist, the Netherlands.

In developing its specifications for DIN-PACS, the Department of Defense required vendors to submit bids for systems that are based on off-the-shelf hardware and industry standards, such as Windows NT, DICOM 3.0, and HL-7. The idea was to avoid reliance on a single proprietary system, as is the case with the older Medical Diagnostic Imaging Support (MDIS) project, which was granted to Loral (now part of GE Medical Systems).

Despite this strategy, the military is still requiring DIN-PACS vendors to fine-tune their products to meet its specifications. For example, DIN-PACS requires the use of a quality-control workstation, through which imaging data are routed for formatting before being sent to diagnostic workstations. This philosophy tends to run counter to current thinking in the private-sector PACS market, which calls for automated work-flow solutions. The military's requirements may have led to the pullout of GE Medical Systems from the DIN-PACS competition (SCAN 11/12/97).

Applicare's Kroon acknowledged that his company has 13 staffers working on its DIN-PACS product improvement plan. But with the kind of money at stake in DIN-PACS-the project has a purchasing ceiling of $250 million in the first year and $1.25 billion over five years-the extra effort is worth it, especially given the level of enthusiasm that military hospitals are showing for PACS technology.

"There is more interest from other military hospitals than we anticipated," Kroon said. "We had expected it would take a year and half before we see real money from this, but it looks as if things will go quicker than we thought."