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Health Images eyes external sales opportunities for HI Star scanner


Firm to set up network of imaging franchisesImaging services provider Health Images of Atlanta plans to beginselling MRI scanners outside its own network of imaging centersfor the first time. The new strategy will be based on the company'sHI

Firm to set up network of imaging franchises

Imaging services provider Health Images of Atlanta plans to beginselling MRI scanners outside its own network of imaging centersfor the first time. The new strategy will be based on the company'sHI Star 0.6-tesla scanner, which received Food and Drug Administrationclearance last month (SCAN 9/13/95).

HI Star is the first Health Images MRI scanner designed andbuilt entirely in-house, according to Prem Anand, executive vicepresident of science and engineering operations. HI's previoussystem, the 0.6-tesla HI Standard, was manufactured using technologylicensed from Johnson & Johnson's defunct Technicare subsidiaryas well as from British Technology Group. With HI Star, HealthImages has severed the Technicare link, but still licenses BTGpatents for fundamental MRI technology, Anand said.

HI Star is a superconducting system with 15-mtesla/m activelyshielded gradients. It has a rise time of 550 microseconds, withreconstruction times of half a second for a 256 x 256 image, abig improvement over the seven-second reconstructions with theHI Standard. It is capable of MR angiography, turboFLASH, segmentedand multishot echo-planar imaging (EPI) and other fast imagingsequences. The scanner runs on an i860 Intel-based array processor,with a dual Pentium host computer running Windows NT. Health Imageswill begin shipping HI Star in the first quarter of 1996.

HI Star will be installed as a replacement for HI Standardat selected centers in the company's network of 54 imaging centersin the U.S. and U.K., Anand said. But perhaps more significantly,the scanner will be the centerpiece of HI's new effort to expandinto scanner sales outside its network.

Health Images is building a sales and marketing division andhas hired Walter O'Neill as director of business development tohead the unit. O'Neill formerly was MRI sales and marketing managerfor the eastern U.S. at Philips Medical Systems. HI believes thenew scanner is well suited for developing markets like Asia andLatin America, but the company will also sell the system in theU.S., Anand said.

In addition to direct sales, HI is developing a franchise networkto complement its wholly owned centers. The company will licenseits name, scanner and software to center operators in a methodsimilar to fast-food restaurant franchising, Anand said. HealthImages will concentrate on setting up franchises in areas thatdo not already have a Health Images clinic.

Partnering with Health Images would be a way for an imagingcenter operator to set up shop without the risk of going it alone,according to Anand.

"A lot of people out there don't have an economical choice(in setting up centers)," Anand said. "If they can doit for far less and be a partner with a company that is the leaderin imaging center operation, we would offer them a benefit theydon't have elsewhere."

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