New MRI societies create costs and opportunities for vendors

Major vendors tie into cardiovascular society Web siteThe recent emergence of professional societies representing clinicaland cardiovascular MRI has stirred mixed emotions among manufacturerswho lobbied for the 1994 merger of MRI's overlapping

Major vendors tie into cardiovascular society Web site

The recent emergence of professional societies representing clinicaland cardiovascular MRI has stirred mixed emotions among manufacturerswho lobbied for the 1994 merger of MRI's overlapping societiesinto the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

The vendors are less than overjoyed about being called uponto support the Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (SCMR),a new society designed to promote cardiac MRI practice, and theClinical Magnetic Resonance Society (CMRS), an organization thatadvocates community-based MRI. But they see educational opportunitiesemerging from the new professional societies that could help strengthenthe modality and lead to future scanner sales.

"These new societies are designed to be technically andclinically focused on only one thing to a depth that you wouldn'tfind with a single society. If this proves to be the case, (therefragmentation of the societies) won't be bad," said ThomasMiller, vice president of the imaging systems group at SiemensMedical Systems in Iselin, NJ.

Miller represented Siemens when it joined with other equipmentvendors to encourage the clinically oriented Society of MagneticResonance Imaging to merge with the more research-oriented Societyof Magnetic Resonance in Medicine three years ago (SCAN 6/2/93).The two societies sponsored separate conferences in Dallas andSan Francisco in 1994. Their first joint assembly under a newsociety, named the International Society of Magnetic Resonancein Medicine (ISMRM), was held in Nice, France, last year.

Although the merger eliminated redundancies, scanner vendorscontinue to spend between $500,000 and $1 million annually tosupport the combined society's work, according to Dr. John Crues,immediate past president of the ISMRM. However, the manufacturershave saved money by not having to shut down their R&D laboratoriestwice each year so their scientists can participate in two conferences.

Siemens actually increased its support of ISMRM because itsaved money as a result of the merger, Miller said.

"My thesis was that if we have one society we will saveso much in time, energy, and effort in going to (meetings) thatwe can easily increase the amount of our contribution," hesaid.

At the same time, Miller sees something inevitable in the formationof SCMR and CMRS. SCMR educates cardiologists and radiologistsabout the diagnostic capabilities of cardiac MRI, while CMRS representsclinical MRI practitioners who -- its organizers believe -- werepoorly served by the merger.

"There is probably some need for fragmentation and specializationas the disciplines become more technically focused," Millersaid.

That has been the case with cardiovascular MRI, where clinicalacceptance may be declining despite technical advances, accordingto Dr. Dudley Pennell, director of clinical MRI at Royal BromptonHospital in London and vice chairman of the SCMR.

"We want to educate physicians and cardiologists and otherhealthcare providers in the applications of MR in the heart andcirculatory systems," Pennell said. "Our aims are basicallypromotional, developmental, and educational."

These goals are consistent with the approach of GE MedicalSystems to marketing cardiovascular instrumentation, accordingto Jay Miller, America's marketing manager for cardiology at theMilwaukee vendor.

"We're both taking a `market-back' view of cardiovascularimaging, meaning we're looking at the disease and the technologyas a whole to find the most effective diagnostic techniques andtherapies," he said.

Although Pennell declined to disclose specifics about industrydonations, he said that all of the major manufacturers have supportedSCMR's educational efforts and have participated in its industryliaison meetings. The first SCMR conference coincided with theAmerican Heart Association meeting in New Orleans in November1995. The second meeting corresponded with the American Collegeof Cardiology meeting in Orlando in March.

Although it took organizers led by SCMR chairman Dr. GeraldPohost three years to overcome the political barriers in the wayof the new society, manufacturers quickly lent their support,Pennell said. Visitors to the society's World Wide Web page (http://reflect.stanford.edu/)can jump to Web pages promoting the products of GE, Siemens, Philips,and Picker.

The formation of the Society for Clinical Magnetic Resonancewas a direct outgrowth of the ISMRM's gravitation toward academicresearch, according to Dr. Stephen Pomerantz, director of AdvancedImaging at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. Pomerantz saw the combinedsocieties moving more toward research and basic science.

"Quality physicians were left out in the cold," hesaid.

About 600 physicians have joined CMRS, suggesting that manyMRI practitioners count themselves among that number. About 250attended its first conference last month in Orlando, and around20 companies showed their wares in the technical exhibition.

The CMRS fills the void left by the SMRI in providing ongoingeducation and support to the community radiologist who specializesin MRI, according to Dr. Lawrence Muroff, president of EducationalSymposia in Tampa and another CMRS founding member. The CMRS islike the old SMRI in that both are dominated by physicians ratherthan having to share authority with scientists, he said.

Unlike the SMRI, the new group has launched a credentialingprogram to recognize MR clinical competence. The program, startedin May, certifies that qualifying physicians have received extensiveMR training and possess case experience that has been correlatedagainst subsequent pathological or surgical findings, Muroff said.

The educational orientation of CMRS leads Miller to be optimisticthat Siemens' contribution to the society will be money well spent.

"If they stick to that goal, rather than big society meetings,then I think they will be doing a good thing," he said.