IIE jumps on digital wave with ultrasound PAC system

April 6, 1994

Offering designed for low-cost image managementThe trend toward digital imaging is picking up speed in ultrasound,to the concern of small-format camera makers. Networked laserprinters are gradually chipping away at sales of on-board cameras.At the same

Offering designed for low-cost image management

The trend toward digital imaging is picking up speed in ultrasound,to the concern of small-format camera makers. Networked laserprinters are gradually chipping away at sales of on-board cameras.At the same time, the introduction of ultrasound image managementsystems like Acuson's Aegis and ATL's Access raises the possibilitythat some ultrasound departments could go entirely filmless inthe not-too-distant future. What's a multiformat camera companyto do?

Diversify. That's what multiformat camera supplier InternationalImaging Electronics has done with its new fullView image managementsystem for ultrasound. IIE of Bolingbrook, IL, displayed the systemat the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine meeting inBaltimore last month. FullView received Food and Drug Administrationmarketing clearance in February (SCAN 3/2/94).

FullView is a Macintosh-based system designed to provide acost-effective path to ultrasound sub-PACS that can be scaledto the user's needs, according to IIE president Steven Silver.To make the system more attractive to cost-conscious facilities,IIE has taken the novel step of offering customers the optionof buying fullView on a software-only basis.

At the core of fullView is a reading and diagnosis workstationcalled Radiologist Station that features a Macintosh Quadra 950with two 21-inch monitors. With an image resolution of 1280 x1024, the workstation can display four full-sized ultrasound imageson each monitor.

IIE is promoting fullView's two-monitor approach as a majorbenefit that differentiates the product from other ultrasoundimage management systems. Radiologists can view all the imagesfrom a study on the left-hand monitor and bring any one of thoseimages up on the right-hand monitor for closer viewing and diagnosis.Current studies can also be compared side-by-side to archivedimages. To facilitate viewing, fullView's mouse control tracksacross both monitors.

Other workstations in the fullView line include the SonographerStation for reviewing images, the Clerical Station for schedulingand patient tracking, and the Librarian Station for archivingand retrieving images. These workstations can be added to a fullViewinstallation according to the facility's needs.

FullView's archive can be based on any digital medium available,according to Silver. Among the options are digital audio tape(DAT), write-once ready-many (WORM) disks, magneto-optical disksand 8-mm tape. Ultrasound images acquired by non-networked scannersare captured with the vendor's Maestro digital acquisition unit.

IIE is completing work on interfaces to DICOM 3.0 and the dataexchange file format (DEFF). DICOM 3.0 and DEFF will give usersthe benefit of a direct digital interface. FullView currentlyrelies on a video frame grabber to digitize ultrasound signals.

Riding on Macintosh. While fullView software is proprietary,IIE is relying on standard Macintosh hardware and will benefitfrom upgrades to that platform. IIE plans to take advantage ofthe speed of the new Power PC-based Macintosh line by writingfullView software in native Power PC code. In addition, customerswho would prefer to buy their own Macintosh hardware can purchasefullView software for $10,000 per scanner for a minimum of twoscanners, Silver said.

"You have a very economical way of getting into a digitalimage management system," Silver said. "We designedfullView as an entry-level system and you don't have to spend$100,000 to start out."

If customers do wish to spend that much, however, IIE can accommodatethem. A comprehensive fullView system linking four scanners andconsisting of all four workstations, an archive and a file serveris priced at about $95,000 for a system with color monitors, and$80,000 for black and white.

FullView is the latest entry in the increasingly crowded marketfor ultrasound sub-PACS. Acuson began shipping Aegis earlier thisyear, ATL is planning to roll out Access shortly and ALI Technologieshas been marketing its UltraPACS system since last year.

Unlike those vendors, however, IIE has not linked its marketingeffort to a scanner OEM. Acuson and ATL can leverage off salesof their own scanners, while ALI has inked an OEM deal with Diasonics.

IIE maintains that fullView is specifically designed to seamlesslylink ultrasound scanners from multiple vendors. IIE would notbe averse to an OEM deal with a scanner vendor similar to thatbetween ALI and Diasonics, however. Indeed, IIE has long reliedon OEMs for multiformat camera sales. FullView is the first productthat IIE has sold direct to customers.

FullView allows IIE to move away from a fading technology --multiformat cameras -- while hitching onto a rising one -- ultrasoundPACS. One of IIE's fullView beta sites, an ultrasound departmentin Canada, has been operating totally filmless for the past twoand a half years, according to Silver.

"We don't feel that film is ever going away completely.People will always have a need for it, especially the applicationswhere you have a camera mounted right to the unit,"Silversaid. "But due to the computer power and the quality of thepictures you can get on a digital computer system, it's now startingto make a lot of sense to go digital."