Hewlett-Packard takes crack at radiology ultrasound market

January 8, 1997

ImagePoint scanner does not affect alliance with PhilipsHewlett-Packard's move into the radiology ultrasound market mayhave caught some industry observers by surprise. But for HP executives,it was a logical extension of the company's domination of

ImagePoint scanner does not affect alliance with Philips

Hewlett-Packard's move into the radiology ultrasound market mayhave caught some industry observers by surprise. But for HP executives,it was a logical extension of the company's domination of thecardiology ultrasound market.

As customers in both domestic and international markets continuedto grapple with cost constraints, the Andover, MA, vendor believedthat the market was ripe for a product that could provide ultrasoundimaging optimized for a wide range of applications.

"Customers want to be able to bring an ultrasound systemto the bedside and scan any organ in the body," said GaryAbrahams, marketing manager for imaging systems.

HP has long dominated the echocardiography market, recording marketshares as high as 60% in recent years. While previous attemptsby HP to enter radiology ultrasound did not succeed, those failureswere due to attempts to build on the company's cardiac scanner,Abrahams said.

As a result, HP's new fully digital system, ImagePoint, was designedfrom the ground up as a workhorse clinical solution that can providehigh-quality images across the full range of ultrasound applications,including abdominal, obstetric and gynecological, vascular, smallparts, and cardiac, he said.

While the high-end ultrasound market saw a flurry of product introductionslast year, HP's strategy is to approach the market from a mid-rangeperspective. The company believes that ImagePoint can providecomparable image quality to high-end systems such as Acuson'sSequoia or GE's Logiq 700 MR scanner, but at a price of around$100,000, Abrahams said.

"We may not win on absolute applications and research capabilities,but if you're a laboratory that's challenged by doing more patientsin a given day and want high clinical performance, this is thesystem of choice," he said.

ImagePoint comes fully optimized for all specialties at one priceand includes color Doppler and ultrasound angiography capabilities.ImagePoint's compact size and weight (300 pounds, including monitor,power module, black-and-white and color printers, and VCR) makethe system truly portable, Abrahams said.

Customers also have the pick of 10 transducers with ImagePoint,which began shipping worldwide in November after receiving Foodand Drug Administration clearance in August (SCAN 9/25/96).

Although he would not disclose the number of channels in ImagePoint'sbeamformer, Abrahams said that the number was equal to or greaterthan some of the high-end systems in the market.

HP has put a dedicated sales force in place to handle ImagePoint,Abrahams said. In fact, the scanner is the number-one growth initiativefor HP's Medical Products Group, he said.

While the company expects high levels of interest both in theU.S. and in Europe, Asia-Pacific customers find the system's multispecialtycapabilities particularly attractive.

"We found that in China, for instance, our customers aremoving towards more general ultrasound labs and they wanted theability to leverage the strength of the cardiac with all the othermodalities and build them into one system," he said.

In the three weeks since the product was introduced in early November,the company had already received 50 orders, Abrahams said at theRadiological Society of North America meeting.

Despite speculation suggesting otherwise, HP's joint venture withPhilips will be unaffected by the introduction of ImagePoint,Abrahams said. The alliance has produced sonoDiagnost 800, a color-flowsystem introduced by Philips two years ago (SCAN 12/14/94).

"The relationship's still intact and it's business as usual,"he said.

At this point, higher end applications developed in conjunctionwith Philips will not be migrated to ImagePoint, Abrahams said.