GE sculpts small-scale PACS for sale to niches outside U.S.

April 18, 2005

Multisite mega-PACS projects are usually front and center when it comes to showcasing networked digital radiology. But not all PACS customers are looking for a giant-sized solution. GE Healthcare believes that its Centricity PACS iX will offer such clients the low-throughput solution they require but with the reliability that comes from dealing with a multinational player.

Multisite mega-PACS projects are usually front and center when it comes to showcasing networked digital radiology. But not all PACS customers are looking for a giant-sized solution. GE Healthcare believes that its Centricity PACS iX will offer such clients the low-throughput solution they require but with the reliability that comes from dealing with a multinational player.

GE is targeting a very specific market with its latest PACS offering. The Centricity PACS iX has been designed for small hospitals and private clinics in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The company has tailored certain aspects of the product to specific markets. Features built into the European RIS, for example, most notably with respect to billing, have been designed for European needs and would not be appropriate for U.S. radiology practices, according to Juergen Reyinger, general manager of imaging and information systems for GE Healthcare in this region.

"It has been developed in Europe for Europe," he said.

The Centricity iX integrates RIS, PACS, and Web-based image and report distribution on a single server. Amalgamation of these key features has helped keep costs down, Reyinger said. Clients purchasing a fairly standard configuration should expect to pay around $200,000. The simplicity of the system's architecture should also enable rapid installation.

"We can get from order placement to 'go live' in just three weeks. This is really new," Reyinger said. "It is a very attractive product for this market segment: fully integrated and offering high performance."

Radiologists will get access to images and reports from the PACS and RIS with the desktop application Centricity RAD cockpit. Referring physicians may view patient data via the Centricity Web solution. Inclusion of the DICOM Modality Worklist Function is expected to eliminate double entry of information. An HL7-based interface can be supplied if connection to a local HIS is required.

The solution is expected to appeal to practices and hospital departments handling up to 50,000 radiological procedures a year. Prospective customers will be advised to purchase 2.5-TB initial storage capacity, which should serve their needs for about three years. The plummeting cost of data storage makes it uneconomical for small hospitals to invest in long-term archiving from day one, Reyinger said. He speculated that the price of 2.5 TB today could buy 10 TB in three years' time.

The Centricity PACS iX underwent a test run in a Swiss private practice in fall 2004, and has demonstrated compliance with 31 Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise integration profiles. It has since been installed at 15 additional sites across Europe. GE sales teams are following up on another 50 potential leads, Reyinger said. The majority of orders placed to date have come from private radiology practices or small private hospitals.

GE expects most sales to be in Germany, Italy, and Spain. The company is also targeting countries with emerging healthcare markets, such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey and locations throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Customers seeking a small-scale PACS have traditionally looked to local providers, some of whom have not always stayed the course, Reyinger said. GE plans to emphasize its permanence in the healthcare IT marketplace, as well as its commitment to R&D investment.

"GE has stability and continuity in product development. We guarantee ongoing innovation in these products," Reyinger said.

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