Instrumentarium tunes mammo effort

February 26, 1992

Instrumentarium Imaging is ramping up both the mammography andMRI sides of its U.S. operations. The Helsinki-based medical imagingvendor separated MRI and mammography into two divisions last yearand began to expand its MRI sales force (SCAN

Instrumentarium Imaging is ramping up both the mammography andMRI sides of its U.S. operations. The Helsinki-based medical imagingvendor separated MRI and mammography into two divisions last yearand began to expand its MRI sales force (SCAN 8/28/91).

While building its fledgling MRI effort in the U.S., Instrumentariumtook several steps to improve its established position in mammography,according to Edward R. Barker, vice president and general managerof the mammography division.

Among the changes in Instrumentarium's mammography business are:

  • an ongoing transition from dealer-based to direct sales;

û initiation of a rental program for mammography equipmentoffered by an in-house finance company;

  • acquisition of an independent equipment service organizationthat now functions as an internal service group;

  • creation of an OEM business unit to expand the firm'sproduct line with externally sourced products; and

  • creation of a separate business unit to coordinate thevendor's mammography conferences and other educational efforts.

Instrumentarium expects to have 10 regional mammography salesrepresentatives in place by midyear. These representatives willmanage direct sales in conjunction with some continuing dealers,Barker said.

"We have decided to become a direct sales operation ratherthan being dealer-based," he said. "Like many changes,you don't go from black to white."

Several factors prompted the switch to direct sales. Perhaps mostimportant, however, was the need to cultivate managed-care accounts,he said.

"If you wish to be a real player in the mammography business,you have to be able to sell to managed-health-care organizationsand to the government," Barker said. "Those groups havebeen fairly persistent about denying us access because they couldn'tbe sure of their access to service and sales support throughoutthe country. With a direct operation, we can do those kinds ofthings for them."

Sales representatives can nudge reluctant customers with a rent-to-ownfinancing program offered by Instrumentarium Finance. "Weallow them to test the waters and make sure this (the mammographysystem) is economically viable for them," Barker said.

If the customer decides to purchase the mammography systems, allrental payments are applied to the purchase price, he said.

Although Instrumentarium has over 1300 mammography systems installedin the U.S., some potential customers do not recognize the nameand are not aware that the Finnish vendor purchased Ausonics'Milwaukee-based mammography sales organization three years ago(SCAN 2/01/89), he said.

The rental plan is similar to a program offered by Xerox for itsxeromammography systems before that vendor exited the business.Barker worked for Xerox prior to joining Instrumentarium.

"One of the reasons we picked the rental program is thatwe think it is one of the things that made Xerox very successful,"he said.

As Instrumentarium shifts from dealer sales, service will movefrom external dealers to a group of 250 company engineers aroundthe country. Instrumentarium gained this service network throughits acquisition last summer of the Medical Equipment Repair Association,a third-party service group. The new in-house service group willcontinue to work on some non-Instrumentarium equipment, but willfocus exclusively on the vendor's own equipment in mammographyand breast ultrasound, Barker said.

Instrumentarium signed an OEM supply agreement last year for abreast ultrasound scanner manufactured by Ausonics of Sidney,which it will sell under its own label as the Vision One. Ausonicshad sold ultrasound along with mammography in the U.S., but thetwo businesses split apart when Instrumentarium purchased theU.S. Ausonics sales organization. Ausonics continues to sell ultrasoundsystems in this country through dealers (SCAN 12/25/91).

The decision to sign up Ausonics was made last year after Instrumentariumopted against selling an ultrasound system provided by anotheroutside supplier. Ultrasound breast imaging provides a logicalextension of the mammography business, as does a second OEM product,a specimen radiography system for tissue analysis, Barker said.

"We have tried to expand ourselves vertically in the mammographybusiness," he said. "Ultrasound is the next thing youdo after you find something suspect. Possibly the next step afterthat is to cut a specimen out of the breast and give it to a pathologist."

MRI breast imaging is another product area complementary to mammography.Instrumentarium has developed a breast coil for its low-fieldMRI system and intends to bring that product to the U.S. thisyear.

Ausonics, and subsequently Instrumentarium, earned recognitionamong clinicians for the sponsorship of an annual breast imagingconference, now in its 12th year. The fact that 27 companies,many of them direct competitors, exhibit at the conference testifiesto the firm's impartial handling of the event. Conference programplanning is handled by an independent five-member professionalcommittee.

But to dispel any doubts about the non-commercial purpose of theconference, Instrumentarium has separated out the conference organizationwithin the company and provided it with a dedicated staff, Barkersaid.

Instrumentarium has also formed a joint venture with Kodak toprovide mammography technologist training programs. Eight two-daytraining sessions will be offered in various U.S. cities, beginningthis month and running until September.

"We learned (from the breast imaging conference experience)that you cannot train 100 or so technologists at one meeting ayear and make a major impact on the education of technologistswho do mammography," Barker said. "These sessions willbe educational in nature and will heighten awareness of what goodmammography is and how that interrelates to ACR accreditationstandards."