GE kicks off marketing campaign for new ultrasound flagship products

October 17, 2001

On Oct. 9, GE Medical Systems unveiled a duo of superpremium radiology ultrasound scanners, the Logiq 9 and Logiq 7, and a workstation called LogiqWorks. The two new scanners, which are slated to begin shipping in November, have taken the number one and

On Oct. 9, GE Medical Systems unveiled a duo of superpremium radiology ultrasound scanners, the Logiq 9 and Logiq 7, and a workstation called LogiqWorks. The two new scanners, which are slated to begin shipping in November, have taken the number one and two spots in the company’s radiology lineup, dislodging the Logiq 700, which had been the company’s standard bearer since its introduction eight years ago. Their counterparts in echocardiography, the Vivid 7, Vivid 3, and EchoPAC workstation, will be launched commercially in the U.S. on Oct. 23 in New York City. They will complement the Vivid 5, which was released in June 2000.

A global marketing campaign featuring the six new products was initially scheduled to begin Sept. 12 on the heels of the European Society of Cardiology meeting, where the echocardiography products were displayed. The campaign was delayed by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The Oct. 9 event, held in Chicago for about 40 selected customers, was the start of a campaign that over the coming weeks will show the new radiology and cardiology products to prospective customers in cities in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, including Berlin, Paris, and Sydney.

The Logiq 9 and 7 differ primarily in their abilities to support clinical applications and perform advanced functions, as do the Vivid 7 and Vivid 3. The Logiq 9 can support obstetric B-flow studies and perform quantitative measurements in 3-D, for example. Logiq 7 cannot.

“Compared to the Logiq 700, the Logiq 9 is superior in image quality and the Logiq 7 is very close if not slightly better,” said Omar Ishrak, vice president and general manager of GE’s ultrasound business.

The four scanners and two workstations share GE’s new architecture, TruScan, which company executives describe as being unlike any built before. Software replaces the midprocessor and scan converter, whose functions typically depend on hardware, Ishrak said. Only the front end of the imaging chain typically found in ultrasound scanners—the transducer and beamformer—and computing platform remain in the new Logiq and Vivid scanners. The two workstations, LogiqWorks and EchoPAC, can be scaled into miniPACS or used as links to institution-wide PACS.

The scanners can be configured with either of two high-frequency matrix-array transducers, whose elements are arranged along the x and y axes to gather data in two planes. An endovaginal probe and small footprint sector probe are also tailor-made for the new radiology products. The new Logiq and Vivid products are compatible with all the probes developed and sold for the Logiq 700.

GE plans to continue selling the Logiq 700, but as a midtier product. The Logiq 9, fully configured, leaps to the high end of the price spectrum, listing for around $250,000. The Logiq 7 will be about 30% less, according to Ishrak.

Logiq 700s now in the field will be upgradable to either the Logiq 7 or 9. Whether this is accomplished by swapping parts or by trading in the old machine for a new one depends on the age and performance level of the installed system, Ishrak said.

“Our customers don’t really worry where or how it is done, but how much it costs and to what system they can upgrade,” he said. “That is what we focus on.”

Field upgrades will vary in price from $25,000 to $80,000, the typical range for GE ultrasound upgrades, according to Ishrak. The upgrades, like the new scanners, will begin shipping in November, he said. The Logiq 9 scanner passed the FDA May 18 (SCAN 7/8/01).

Prior to the Chicago kickoff, sales staff had done some selected “preshow” demonstrations to prospective customers. Along with standing orders from GE customers for the annual ultrasound “breakthrough,” these have resulted in a backlog of about 100 systems. Ishrak and his colleagues hope to build interest in their new scanners as a prelude to the upcoming RSNA meeting in late November.

“We want to pick up business before then,” Ishrak said. “Why wait?”

The new products were developed as part of a global effort involving about a half-dozen R&D centers around the world. Logiq 9 was designed primarily in the U.S., Logiq 7 in Japan, Vivid 7 in Norway, and Vivid 3 in Israel. Germany-based EchoTech 3D Imaging Systems, which GE acquired last spring, contributed key 3-D technology.

Ishrak and colleagues directed attention during the Oct. 9 launch at the TruScan architecture, which is common to the scanners and workstations. TruScan includes advanced algorithms running on a Pentium-based computing platform optimized for diagnostic ultrasound. Together they provide the building blocks for a range of advanced clinical capabilities.

Several luminaries have already put the Logiq 9 through its paces. Dr. A. Thomas Stavros of Radiology Imaging Associates in Denver enthusiastically embraced the system during its Oct. 9 unveiling. Stavros speculated about its use in breast studies to identify calcifications and, possibly, reduce the need to biopsy suspicious lesions. Dr. E.A. Lyons, a professor of radiology and ob/gyn at the University of Manitoba, lauded the Logiq 9’s ability to penetrate deep into the abdomen.

These results are possible, Ishrak said, partly because TruScan processes data in a fundamentally different way. Raw rather than processed data are stored, allowing the operator to manipulate the data regardless of whether they were captured an instant or a year ago.

“The data always go through the TruScan process,” he said. “You can apply new color algorithms and change imaging parameters after the exam. And there is flexibility that we haven’t even turned on yet. Future releases will get more sophisticated, using these capabilities, as we find out what our users want to do.”

TruScan has four parts. Each is composed of certain functional capabilities. CodeScan improves B-flow, harmonic imaging, and harmonic angio imaging by assigning codes to the transmitted ultrasound signal and then decoding the echoes. It incorporates the fourth iteration of this technology, called coded excitation.

SmartScan uses adaptive processing techniques to format, manage, and display the images in two or three dimensions. This mixture of algorithms is aimed at speeding exams and increasing productivity, Ishrak said.

ComfortScan creates a user-friendly environment by catering to the needs of sonographers. A “floating” keyboard on the Logiq 9 pulls out and away from the scanner and toward the patient, allowing the sonographer to more easily position the transducer. An extra-large 17-inch monitor lifts up and swings out from the base of the Logiq 9 and Logiq 7 for more effective positioning nearer the patient.

TruAccess ties the package together, turning raw data into images, but storing the data in digital form, allowing physicians to optimize the image after storage. The various components making up the TruScan architecture will be the cornerstone on which future GE ultrasound products will be built, Ishrak said.

“It gives us tremendous computational power, flexibility, and scalability,” he said. “We can make different products based on the same architecture with modular and different levels of performance.”