IBM collaborates with Brit to win PACS contract at Dallas VA hospital

November 20, 1996

IBM unit to concentrate on government businessComputer giant IBM is taking its first steps back into the PACSmarket. The vendor's Worldwide Government Industry division haspartnered with software developer Brit Systems to win a $6.3

IBM unit to concentrate on government business

Computer giant IBM is taking its first steps back into the PACSmarket. The vendor's Worldwide Government Industry division haspartnered with software developer Brit Systems to win a $6.3 millioncontract from the Department of Veterans Affairs to install afilmless hospital PACS at the VA Medical Center in Dallas.

The contract marks the return of IBM to a business it leftingloriously several years ago, when a relationship with PACSsoftware firm Genesys of Orlando, FL, broke down (SCAN 10/20/93).IBM had severed its relationship with Genesys in a dispute overa PACS installation at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, andGenesys countered with a lawsuit. The two sides eventually settledthe dispute out of court.

IBM has laid low since then, until it announced Nov. 7 thatit had won the Dallas VA contract. IBM is the primary contractoron the project, and will provide hardware, systems integration,training, and support. Brit will provide its image managementsoftware. The two companies have been working together for thepast year and a half, according to Dan Kecman, senior client representativefor IBM. The installation is scheduled to be completed in late1997.

Brit was founded in 1993 to commercialize PACS software developedat the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas,according to Michele Fisher, vice president of sales for the Dallascompany. Its software is based on computer industry standardslike DICOM 3.0, C++, and TCP/IP to make it easy to integrate intoa healthcare facility.

Brit's high-end multiple-monitor reading workstations are basedon Unix, and those to be installed at the Dallas VA will run onIBM's RS/6000 workstations, with Metheus graphics cards and DataRay monitors. Brit hopes to integrate IBM's MedSpeak/Radiologyspeech recognition technology into the PACS (SCAN 9/25/96).

Fuji computed radiography systems will be used to digitizeconventional x-ray at the Dallas VA. The installation will useATM networking for high-speed transfer of medical images and data.The system will use an IBM 7137 RAID (redundant array of inexpensivedisks) system for short-term archiving, with a magneto-opticaldisk library for long-term archiving.

"The key is in building an archive that is mission-critical,which is why it is so important to have IBM involved, becausethey certainly know how to do that," Fisher said.

The PACS will be installed at two new facilities the VA isbuilding at the Dallas hospital: the Spinal Cord Injury Centerand the Clinical Addition Project, where the medical center'snew radiology department will be located. Images from the systemwill be available to the rest of the hospital through a directDICOM interface to the VA's Decentralized Hospital Computer Programhospital information system.

Brit is hoping that the IBM deal will help it make the movefrom a small regional PACS vendor to a major player in the industry.At present, Brit has about a dozen teleradiology projects, mostlyin Texas, and the Dallas installation is its first filmless hospitalcontract. The IBM contract is not exclusive, however, and Britis interested in partnering with other vendors.

For IBM, the Dallas contract represents the latest attemptto crack a market that has vexed the computer vendor for years.In addition to the Genesys partnership, IBM had a PACS developmentdeal with GE Medical Systems that never panned out (SCAN 4/22/92).

The IBM division that had entered into those deals, the healthcareindustry unit, is not the same business that has won the DallasVA contract, however. The Worldwide Government Industry divisionis based in Bethesda, MD, and has historically focused on governmentwork, according to Kecman.

The division does not see the Dallas installation as a one-offproject, and plans to concentrate on securing more governmentPACS business. That could be bad news for PACS firm Lockheed MartinWestern Development Laboratories Medical Imaging Systems, whichhas carved out a successful niche in government PACS work.

Indeed, IBM's receipt of the Dallas VA contract may be a signthat the company is already successfully encroaching on LockheedMartin's turf. While Lockheed Martin won the other two VA filmlesshospital contracts issued this year, the IBM award prevented LockheedMartin from winning all three VA contracts, as it did last year.

Will IBM eventually expand its PACS focus from government hospitalsto private-sector institutions? That is up to other IBM divisions,such as the healthcare solutions industry unit, Kecman said. Forits part, however, IBM plans to begin developing a marketing programto get its message out to hospitals operated by the VA and Departmentof Defense, according to Ken Croken, public relations managerfor the unit.

"We are looking at the VA Medical Center in Dallas asa showpiece of our capability," Croken said. "With thatreference, we would like to think that the rest of the DOD andVA medical communities will regard IBM as a premier solution providerin the area of PACS networking."