Open systems support growth in medical 3-D

September 11, 1991

Proliferation of three-dimensional medical image processing systemswill accelerate over the next several years (see graph). A primeforce driving 3-D medical imaging is the growing processing powerand open-system architecture of medical workstations,

Proliferation of three-dimensional medical image processing systemswill accelerate over the next several years (see graph). A primeforce driving 3-D medical imaging is the growing processing powerand open-system architecture of medical workstations, accordingto Gary Reed, a medical imaging consultant.

Use of open-system computers and networks reduces the costof image processing and handling. This spurs clinical and administrativedemand, he said.

"The advantages (of open systems) are efficiency and easeof use. You have to cost-justify everything in the imaging department,"Reed said.

Reed's firm, Integration Resources of Lebanon, NJ, publishedthe 1991 3D/MPR Market Report last month.

Many 3-D medical imaging developers remain focused on hardwareas well as software development. Problems in developing and upgradingproprietary computer platforms have kept high-end 3-D companiesfrom breaking even, he said.

ISG Technologies is the only dedicated 3-D firm that is consistentlyprofitable, said Reed, who consults for ISG as well as other 3-Dfirms.

Cemax abandoned its hardware business last year to develop3-D software for use on Sun workstations (SCAN 8/15/90). Thatstrategy has not resulted in consistent profits, he said.

While Sun has been active in the medical market for some time,the introduction of the vendor's more powerful SPARC II microprocessorthis year is only now making that workstation practical in termsof clinical 3-D work, he said.

Hewlett-Packard workstations are also strong in the medical3-D market. IBM's RS/6000 unit is making strides in 3-D, but needsmore development in this area, Reed said.

Additional clinical software applications need to be developedif the overall 3-D market is to take off. While Medicare reimbursesfor 3-D CT and MRI work, 3-D companies must document the clinicaladvantages of more applications to convince the Health Care FinancingAdministration to develop additional 3-D reimbursement codes,he said.

Demand for 3-D continues to be fueled by referring physiciansrather than radiologists, he said.

"Radiologists are in a service business," Reed said."They have to wake up (to the advantages of 3-D processing)or the referring physicians will start doing it themselves,"he said.

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • GE Medical and 3M entered into a five-year strategic marketingrelationship last month related to 3M's laser imager systems.GE will continue to sell 3M lasers under its own LaserCam labelfor use with MRI, CT and cardiovascular x-ray systems.

Under the agreement, GE will have access to all current 3Mlaser technology as well as high-speed multimodality imagers underdevelopment by 3M.

  • Genesys of Maitland, FL, signed on Sigma Dataserv as exclusivedistributor for picture archiving and communication systems andteleradiology products in Brazil. Genesys is an IBM business partnerthat uses the giant computer vendor's RS/6000 workstation as thebasis for PAC and teleradiology systems development. IBM Brazilwill assist Sigma Dataserv in marketing the Genesys equipment.

This distribution arrangement is the first major internationalstep for Genesys, said president Mike Kerouac.

  • Toshiba expects slower growth of medical imaging salesin Japan than worldwide for 1991, according to the Medical EquipmentJournal of Japan. Toshiba projects a 3% growth rate for medicalequipment sales in its home market, compared to a 10% increaseinternationally, MEJJ said.

  • Kurzweil Applied Intelligence of Waltham, MA, clincheda $500,000 contract for use of speech-controlled radiology reportingsystems by the U.S. military. Kurzweil will sell 26 of the voice-recognitionsystems to Science Applications International (SAIC) of San Diego.SAIC is working on a program to computerize military health-carerecords.

The sale is the largest ever of speech-controlled medical reportingsystems, said Bernard F. Bradstreet, Kurzweil president.