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Kodak elects to shut down ultrasound miniPACS business


Kodak elects to shut down ultrasound miniPACS businessCompany banks on Cemax-Icon enterprise PACSFollowing unsuccessful attempts to divest its ultrasound miniPACS operations, Eastman Kodak has opted to close this business and focus on its

Kodak elects to shut down ultrasound miniPACS business

Company banks on Cemax-Icon enterprise PACS

Following unsuccessful attempts to divest its ultrasound miniPACS operations, Eastman Kodak has opted to close this business and focus on its full-scale PACS products. The Rochester, NY-based company quietly announced in early October that all sales and manufacturing of its Access ultrasound miniPACS, ImageVue echocardiography image management system, and Kodak G4 image and information management system would cease by year’s end.

Service and support for these products will continue until Kodak has transitioned existing customers to other sources or products (the company declined to disclose the number of customers or installed systems). Kodak has maintained the service organization for these product lines and is developing a data migration plan for customers who want to transfer archived data from these products to other vendors’ systems. The number of Kodak employees affected by the discontinued operations is small, according to Nancy Sousa, vice president of new business for Kodak’s health imaging division.

Kodak originally entered the ultrasound miniPACS business through a 1994 partnership with Nova Microsonics, then an Allendale, NJ-based subsidiary of ATL Ultrasound (PNN 6/98). Nova developed both ImageVue and Access, which Kodak integrated into its PACS product line. Kodak then acquired Nova Microsonics in 1997 after ATL determined that it was not interested in providing the broad-based image management solutions many of its ultrasound customers were clamoring for.

But Kodak’s acquisition of Cemax-Icon last year through its purchase of Imation’s medical imaging business (PNN 12/98) led to a change in the company’s image management strategy. Since completing that deal, Kodak has consolidated all of its PACS business into Cemax-Icon, but concluded that trying to integrate the Access product into Cemax as well was “not the best decision,” according to Sousa.

“Our perception of the ultrasound miniPACS market is that it has been changing over the past few years and is migrating toward the enterprise-wide PACS,” said Dawn Beck, director of public relations for health imaging at Kodak. “It appears that the enterprise-wide PACS model is a wiser investment.”

Differences in architectures between the Access system and Cemax-Icon’s PACS products likely played a role in Kodak’s decision as well. While Kodak had planned to migrate Access from its OS/2 platform to Windows NT, in the long run the numbers just didn’t add up. At this point, the company has committed only to migrating archived data from existing Access systems to other vendors’ Windows NT-based systems via an external DICOM-based gateway. Kodak plans to make this option available to interested customers early next year, at a cost still being determined.

“We did look at the cost to integrate the two (platforms), but that cost was not attractive compared to the market opportunity,” Beck said.

The move further solidifies Cemax-Icon’s role as the sole provider of Kodak’s PACS development platform. In fact, it should open up new opportunities in this market for Cemax-Icon, according to Gary Larson, president of the Fremont, CA-based subsidiary.

“The main impact on Cemax is that we now have greater resources to devote to our enterprise-wide PACS business,” he said.

Cemax-Icon has just finished migrating its AutoRad product line to Windows NT; these workstations are now available on both the Macintosh and NT platforms, while the archiving products continue to run on Unix.

New beginningsKodak’s decision to discontinue its ultrasound miniPACS operations is the latest in a series of strategic shifts that have characterized the company’s decade-long participation in the PACS sector. Kodak’s efforts in PACS and teleradiology date back to 1987, when the vendor unveiled the Kodak Ektascan teleradiology system. In 1990, Kodak announced a strategic alliance with PACS provider Vortech Data to co-develop and co-market PACS technology under the Kodak Ektascan Imagelink name. In 1993, the company purchased Vortech and merged it with its worldwide electronics business to create a new subsidiary, Kodak Health Imaging Systems. This led to the development of a full-scale PACS with Macintosh-based viewing stations.

Following its entry into ultrasound miniPACS in 1994, Kodak rebranded its digital imaging products from Kodak Ektascan to Kodak Digital Science in 1995 and reorganized the Health Imaging Systems unit into Kodak Health Sciences. Less than a year later, the health science group was renamed again, this time becoming Kodak Health Imaging. That same year, Kodak completed its efforts to bring DICOM 3.0-based image management software to market and completed a conversion of its PACS workstations to Unix. The company had since ported the majority of its PACS products to Windows NT, following the formation of an OEM relationship with Applicare Medical Imaging. Earlier this year, however, Kodak announced that it was consolidating all of its PACS efforts into Cemax-Icon, and Cemax-Icon technology makes up the bulk of the combined firms’ offerings.

While Kodak has shifted its PACS strategy frequently over the last decade, the company maintains that its business decisions are a reflection of the industry’s evolution.

“Kodak has been participating in the PACS market for a long time,” Beck said. “And it has been a very dynamic marketplace, with lots of players, lots of changes, and lots of confusion early on with regard to standards. So we have had to make a lot of changes as it has evolved. But we have continued to participate in this market and review the opportunities, and we are still in it.”

One of Kodak’s newest PACS opportunities is currently making its European debut. The Kodak PARIS system combines Cemax-Icon’s PACS technology with Kodak’s RIS System 2010, a radiology information system available only in Europe. The RIS 2010, which was developed by a European company called CKI based on customer requirements from Denmark and Sweden, is installed at 45 sites throughout Europe, according to Oliver Lehner, regional marketing manager for Kodak Digital Systems Team in London.

PARIS is the result of a joint development effort between CKI and Cemax-Icon. It is based on an Oracle platform and can run on both PC and Unix workstations. A single RIS/PACS worklist provides full RIS and PACS functionality in one application; when data is available in the PACS screen, the RIS screen will follow, and vice versa.

PARIS will be marketed and sold only in Europe and is expected to become available by the first quarter of 2000, although it will be on display in Kodak’s booth at the upcoming RSNA meeting.

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