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GE plugs into systems networking with new product/services group


New program is not PACS, vendor saysGE's ambivalence about PACS was evident in its last-minute decisionto unveil a new networking product line in its exhibit at the1994 Radiological Society of North America conference. Executivescharged with

New program is not PACS, vendor says

GE's ambivalence about PACS was evident in its last-minute decisionto unveil a new networking product line in its exhibit at the1994 Radiological Society of North America conference. Executivescharged with staffing the group's section at GE's booth facedthe challenge of pitching a product line just off the drawingboard and a marketing concept written in ink not yet dry.

GE's network products and services group is a serious effortby the Milwaukee-based company to find a role in the burgeoningimage distribution and management field. The group was formedseveral months before the RSNA conference. The 80-person globalgroup was assigned equivalent status to the GE management groupsfor MR and CT programs, according to Varda Peskowitz, networkproducts and services marketing manager for the Americas.

Mark De Simone, former vice president of European marketing,was appointed general manager of the network products and servicesgroup a week before the RSNA show. Peskowitz was previously asales support manager for GE's CT marketing group.

The group's objective is to pursue networking solutions thatmake medical imaging departments more efficient. Phase-one goalsare also tied to promoting DICOM 3.0 connectivity, a theme toutedby GE when it withdrew from the PACS market at last year's RSNAconference.

"We've realized that we have to look at networking solutionsif we truly are going to impact our customers' productivity. Connectivityis essential in providing that," Peskowitz said. "GEis playing the role of a systems integrator by bringing togethersuperior technology from various sources for our customers."

Peskowitz emphasized that GE has not re-entered the PACS market.GE's networking approach does not include imaging archiving, anessential component of PACS. GE assumes that radiologists willcontinue to produce film for interpretation. Cost savings areachieved by eliminating unnecessary additional film production,she said.

The first phase of the approach is the accumulation of selectedGE acquisition, transmission and display products, which willbe strung together with contributions from Cemax and other OEMpartners. Image processing workstations, such as the Genie nuclearmedicine workstation, remain under the control of their modality-specificproduct groups.

GE's multimodality workstations and physician review stationscapable of displaying diagnostic-quality images were integratedinto the phase-one plan. GE's Advantage Review Stations were introducedthis year. They feature 2000-line monitors that support primarydiagnosis. Cemax of Fremont, CA, provided review software, whileSun Microsystems contributed its high-powered Sunsparc 20 centralprocessing unit. Lumisys film digitizers were selected for integratingplain film into the all-digital system.

"We are integrating the best components available in theindustry to provide optimal solutions," Peskowitz said.

A yet-to-be-designed GE image manager will provide networkcontrol to act as a system traffic cop, according to Peskowitz.Functions will include pre-fetching a patient's old CT scans,for example, for side-by-side comparison with studies performedduring a current hospital stay.

GE HealthNet is the final piece of networking services to beintroduced along with the product group. Through HealthNet, GEplans to become a one-stop shop for custom wide-area networksthat transmit images and information between multisite medicalinstitutions.

"We have relationships through our central telecommunicationsoperations with all the regional Bell operators to make all theproper connections," Peskowitz said.

If GE's plans sound sketchy, it's because the program is stillbeing defined, noted Michael Cannavo, president of Image ManagementConsultants in Winter Park, FL.

"GE does not appear to be planning on the scale of Kodakor 3M in this market, but the company is using the DICOM interconnectivitytheme to offer integrated solutions based on real or perceivedcustomer need," he said.

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