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Loral and Siemens mull revamped PACS structure


Siemens and Loral Aerospace are discussing ways to spin theirpicture archiving and communications systems partnership intoa separate joint venture. The effort follows Siemens' developmentof a separate cluster PACS concept--versus the centralized

Siemens and Loral Aerospace are discussing ways to spin theirpicture archiving and communications systems partnership intoa separate joint venture. The effort follows Siemens' developmentof a separate cluster PACS concept--versus the centralized datastorage PACS championed by Loral and Siemens Gammasonics. It alsofollows on the heels of the integration of the Gammasonics factoryinto a restructured U.S. organization under Iselin, NJ-based SiemensMedical Systems (SCAN 4/7/93).

Siemens Gammasonics, formerly an autonomous manufacturer ofnuclear medicine and PACS equipment within the worldwide Siemensmedical business, has passed its nuclear medicine responsibilitiesto the nuclear medicine group of SMS. Both the nuclear medicinegroup and Gammasonics are located in Hoffman Estates, IL.

Loral Western Development Labs, a unit of Loral Aerospace basedin San Jose, CA, exhibited for the first time at this month'sRadiological Society of North America meeting. Siemens Gammasonicsexecutives were on hand, wearing Loral badges. Executives fromLoral and Siemens confirmed that joint venture discussions betweenthe companies are in progress.

"We feel that could be a next step, that the smoothestway to operate together is under a joint-venture relationship,"said Gregory J. Barone, president and CEO of Siemens Gammasonics.

Loral and Siemens Gammasonics have been working together onPACS for the past four years. Their major collaboration is themedical diagnostic imaging support project (MDIS), an effort toinstall comprehensive PACS at U.S. Army and Air Force hospitals(SCAN 1/29/92).

Loral showcased a smaller version of an MDIS-style full-hospitalPACS at its RSNA booth. Workstations in the booth were connectedvia the RSNA's recently installed fiber-optics network to a modelmilitary "isoshelter" in the infoRAD exhibit in thenorth building of McCormick Place, about half a mile away.

The isoshelter, intended to serve as a highly mobile, remotelocation for medical imaging services, was in turn connected toMadigan Army Medical Center, an MDIS hospital in Tacoma, WA. Imagescould be shipped from Madigan to the isoshelter and then to Loral'sbooth.

The system in Loral's booth was a sneak preview of a new productline Loral and Siemens Gammasonics plan to introduce early nextyear. The line will be a smaller version of the companies' full-scalePACS product. It will allow users to take a modular approach toPACS by starting with an archive and distribution system and severalworkstations that can eventually be upgraded to a system as largeand comprehensive as the MDIS project.

The new offering will fill a gap in the Loral/Siemens productline, which has included teleradiology links and fully digitizedhospitals but no intermediate step, according to John H. Perry,vice president of the PACS division at Gammasonics.

"We didn't have something as simple as an intrahospitalimage distribution system," Perry said. "We are introducinga scalable product that goes all the way from small intrahospitalPACS to the biggest hospitals."

The new PACS line will use hardware and software identicalto that of the MDIS system, according to Perry. The main differencebetween the two is in the storage capacity of the archive andthe number of workstations.

The strategy behind the new system is in line with developmentsin the PACS industry, with users taking a modular, add-on approachto PACS, said Wayne Sebera, director of medical business developmentat Loral.

"One of the key distinctions that the Loral/Siemens PACShas is its very large scalability," Sebera said. "Aperson can start small and phase in over a period of time to alarge, full-scale system."

A joint venture could work well for both Loral and SiemensGammasonics. Siemens could spin off the Gammasonics unit and stillretain its Sienet cluster PACS line targeted at a lower pricepoint than the Loral/Gammasonics offering. Loral, meanwhile, wouldsolidify its position as a supplier of comprehensive PACS solutions.

"Both sides feel there is a lot of advantage to doing(a joint venture)," Barone said. "We've made some realprogress in discussions lately. As to when we might come to aresolution, I don't know."

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