PACS companies jockey for position at RSNA showMany vendors to display Windows NT and Web technologyYou can finally believe the hype. With physician interest at last matching the enthusiasm of PACS vendors, this month's Radiological
Many vendors to display Windows NT and Web technology
You can finally believe the hype. With physician interest at last matching the enthusiasm of PACS vendors, this month's Radiological Society of North America meeting figures to be another banner event for companies active in the fast-growing digital image management market.
As might be expected in a rapidly expanding industry, the impact of consolidation will be evident on the McCormick Place exhibit floor. Several PACS companies either merged with or acquired other players during the year to solidify their positions, with Imation's acquisition of Cemax-Icon and GE Medical Systems' purchase of Lockheed Martin's PACS unit among the most notable events in 1997.
Smaller PACS players that aren't participating in the mergers and acquisitions frenzy are seeking new OEM relationships to maximize their distribution channels. With larger firms looking to outsource portions of their PACS line to speed product launches, small companies will continue to fill a need in the market.
On the technology side, the Windows NT operating system continues to grow in prominence, due to its flexibility and customers' familiarity with the Windows user interface. Several vendors will display work in porting their PACS product lines to the Microsoft platform.
The use of World Wide Web protocols to disseminate images and information will again assume a prime position in many booths. Low-cost Web browsers are viewed by many customers as an excellent way to secure enterprise-wide acceptance of PACS technology.
Another trend on the exhibit floor will be the growing number of vendors showing developments in integrating PACS with hospital and radiology information systems. Many industry analysts believe that these integrated image and information systems represent the future of the PACS market.
Access of Natick, MA, will introduce a range of products employing the firm's Framewave wavelet compression algorithms. The company will highlight its work-in-progress DxWave Web-based image transmission product (PNN 7/97), which will also employ wavelet compression. Archiving software using wavelet compression algorithms will also be demonstrated. Physicians interested in examining the effects of various compression algorithms on medical images will be able to do so in a demonstration area in the vendor's booth.
Ultrasound powerhouse Acuson will emphasize the porting of its Aegis ultrasound miniPACS network to Windows NT (PNN 6/97). Acuson decided to move away from the Macintosh platform because of the popularity of Windows NT among IS departments, as well as concerns over the longevity of the Macintosh line, according to the company. Shipments of NT-based versions of Aegis are slated for the second half of 1998. The Mountain View, CA-based company will also feature its WebPro Web interface for Aegis.
Agfa will introduce Release 3.5 of its Impax software, which includes parallel database technology, an automated teleradiology reporting feature, and support for digital linear tape backup archives.
Also taking a prominent place in Agfa's booth this year will be Web 1000, the company's Web-based image distribution product. Web 1000 allows clinicians to receive radiology reports and call up images from an archive. To speed data transfer times, Web 1000 employs a lossy wavelet compression technique, but users can also pull up a specific region-of-interest with a lossless algorithm to ensure full image quality. Since Web 1000 is integrated directly into Agfa's Impax PACS line, company officials believe it offers advantages over other Web products.
Raanana, Israel-based Algotec will introduce MediLink, a DICOM- and HL-7-compliant interface engine that links Algotec's PACS offerings with other healthcare information systems. The vendor will also emphasize MediStore, a multitier, multimedia clinical image and data repository. MediStore supports configurations ranging from gigabytes of RAID online storage to terabytes of archiving capacity on DLT jukeboxes, according to the company.
Ultrasound miniPACS developer ALI will feature the next release of its UltraPACS ultrasound miniPACS network. Including JPEG or RLE compression and a component-level DICOM interface network, UltraPACS is available on Unix or Windows NT/95 operating systems.
Ultrasound won't be the only modality represented in ALI's booth, however. Several multimodality products will be displayed, including an image management workstation, an online diagnostic reporting system, and a work-in-progress multimodality DICOM-based PACS archive. The company will also exhibit its DICOM WinView viewing software package for PCs.
Cerner of Kansas City, MO, will show a version of its ProView software package designed to run on the company's HNA Millennium network architecture (PNN 10/97). ProView interfaces with traditional PACS networks and digital imaging modalities to transfer images to standard PCs for clinician review.
The pending acquisition of CompuRad by film digitizer manufacturer Lumisys will have a major impact on CompuRad's exhibit at the meeting. If shareholders at Lumisys and CompuRad vote on Nov. 25 to approve the joining of the two companies, CompuRad will exhibit as a second Lumisys booth at the meeting. If the shareholder vote needs to be postponed, CompuRad will exhibit under its own name.
In any event, Tucson-based CompuRad will show the iArchive package it acquired from Star Technologies (PNN 9/97) in conjunction with a DLT jukebox from StorageTek. The company will also show new software releases for its iView Pro Windows NT-based viewing software package and its ClinicalWare Web-based image and information management software.
DeJarnette Research Systems
DeJarnette of Towson, MD, will emphasize its new line of PACS workstations. Called VisiShare, the workstations are available in configurations ranging from low-end teleradiology computers up to 2K x 2.5K diagnostic workstations. VisiShare workstations are based on Windows operating systems, with high-end systems running Windows NT and low-end systems using Windows 95. Also on display will be a second-generation ImageShare quality-assurance station for computed radiography and the company's MediShare medical informatics gateway between HL-7 and DICOM.
San Diego-based DR Systems will highlight Universal Manager, a new image acquisition system that enables clinicians to use a single DR Systems workstation for functions that previously required multiple computers. In new archiving developments, the vendor will show a 600-platter CD-ROM archiving jukebox.
Dynamic Healthcare Technologies
The HIS vendor will introduce a teleradiology component to its PACsPlus+ offering. The component, called WebSight, is based on Web protocols and will enable both sending and receiving of images, according to the Maitland, FL-based vendor. The company will also showcase PACsPlus+ release 2.0, which adds some elements to the product that are typically found in radiology information systems (PNN 10/97), according to the firm.
A highlight of the Kodak booth this year will be the company's new line of Windows NT-based workstations (see story, page 3). Kodak, of Rochester, NY, will also discuss its recently completed PACS installation at New York Hospital in New York City; in addition, this RSNA meeting will be the first since the company bought the Nova MicroSonics ultrasound miniPACS business from ATL in April.
Look for Kodak to debut the Digital Science 9000D dry printer as a work-in-progress. As of press time, Kodak declined to reveal whether the system was a laser or non-laser printer.
Kodak will also discuss its Kodak imaging network services initiative, a program designed to help healthcare facilities improve the performance and reliability of their networked imaging equipment. The program provides consulting and planning, and network assessment, design, and implementation services.
Multimodality vendor Elscint will highlight Interview, its name for the MediSurf Web-based image distribution software product developed by fellow Israeli vendor Algotec Systems (PNN 9/97). Employing applets based on Sun's Java programming language, Interview allows referring physicians with the proper security clearances to access patient images and data from a central server on the Internet, LAN, or WAN, according to the companies.
In addition to showcasing its new PACS Pro/DX line of Windows NT-based workstations (PNN 6/97), EMED of San Antonio, TX, will continue to offer at no charge its MultiView teleradiology software package. The vendor will also show the new MultiView 3.0 software release (PNN 10/97), as well as features, called extensions, that add functionality to the basic MultiView package. EMED has added extensions supporting wavelet compression algorithms and DICOM remote query-retrieve.
Fuji Medical Systems USA
Computed radiography vendor Fuji of Stamford, CT, will debut its Synapse line of Windows NT-based workstations (see story, page 2).
GE Medical Systems
The PACS section of GE's booth will be larger thanks to the acquisition of Lockheed Martin Medical Imaging Systems in April (PNN 5/97). GE will display Windows NT-based workstations and servers that allow online storage of over a terabyte of images. A multimedia Web-based data repository will be on display, as will workstations that are focused on improving radiologist productivity in areas such as transcription. On the cardiac side of the business, Milwaukee-based GE has released GEMnet DCR 2000, a DICOM-based digital cardiac networking system.
IDX will highlight IDXradR, which adds a relational database and Web technology to the company's IDXrad radiology information system. The launch of IDXradR is the first step in the development of the company's Enterprise Medical Image Management System, a software package that will facilitate enterprise-wide availability of images and radiology reports (PNN 11/97).
Cemax-Icon's booth will be part of Imation's exhibit this year, owing to that company's acquisition of Cemax-Icon earlier this year (PNN 6/97). Imation will emphasize synergies between the Imation and Cemax-Icon product lines and will showcase its work-flow management technologies, including techniques such as image-hanging protocols and integration between PACS and HIS/RIS networks. The company will also debut Clinical Access, a Windows NT-based 1K clinician review station.
Imnet of Atlanta will display four workstations equipped with software from ISG Technologies, with applications in primary diagnosis and clinician review (PNN 11/97). The company will also release DICOM Network Agent, which recently gained Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance.
ISG of Mississauga, Ontario, will put the spotlight on the Windows NT-based versions of its Viewing and Reading Stations (VRS) PACS workstations, which include new features such as interfaces to HIS/RIS networks, image-fusion capabilities, Web browser-based viewers, user-customizable tool sets, and hanging templates to prearrange studies. The company's ID store and ID Web image management and archiving solutions will also be on display.
Konica will highlight VisionPoint, its new low-cost, non-DICOM point-to-point teleradiology offering. Another Konica teleradiology package, NetStar Teleradiology, is targeted at more sophisticated teleradiology applications and can function in a networked environment. NetStar Teleradiology, which also provides DICOM support, is based on the Windows NT platform, while ViewPoint runs on the Windows 3.x and Windows 95 operating systems. The Wayne, NJ, company also expected to receive 510(k) clearance for its NetStar PACS line sometime around this month's meeting.
Lumisys of Sunnyvale, CA, will display a work-in-progress auto-loader feature for its line of film digitizers. (See also CompuRad listing above.)
This San Francisco-based PACS developer will introduce Medweb Mail, a plug-in that allows selection and delivery of images and HIS reports to appropriate physicians via e-mail. Physicians can open and display images using tools such as measuring, scale, annotation, window/level, and magnify/zoom, according to Medweb. Medweb Mail employs wavelet compression, PGP encryption, and multimedia annotation, and supports the DICOM and HL-7 standards, according to the company.
Merge of Milwaukee will debut MergeARK, a scalable, DICOM-based image archiving system that stores images onto CD-Rs. MergeARK can perform as a cornerstone of a PACS network, with peripheral devices added later, according to the company.
Olicon Imaging Systems
Olicon has added a tertiary level of storage to its offerings, with DLT tape providing long-term archiving. (See also profile, page 5.)
Philips Medical Systems
The company will showcase IDS 4/dx, a Windows NT-based diagnostic review station from partner Sectra-Imtec (PNN 9/97). Another Sectra product, the Wise database management system, is now available in a smaller configuration, called Wise/lite, for use in cluster-type miniPACS environments. Philips, of Shelton, CT, will also debut Release 4.0 of its EasyVision modality workstation line, which will feature total integration of x-ray and CT/MR image processing, display, and DICOM communication, according to the company. The new version will also offer Web-based image distribution to standard PCs.
Shared Medical Systems
SMS, of Malvern, PA, will release Image Management System version 23.2, a Windows NT version of the company's IMS PACS offering (PNN 11/97). The company will also show work-in-progress modes on its clinical review station, including a Web browser and voice recognition capabilities. Integration work with PACS technology from Olicon will also be shown (see Olicon vendor profile, page 5).
Siemens Medical Systems
Siemens of Iselin, NJ, will highlight MagicWeb, a server that allows referring physicians to access diagnostic images and reports via Web browsers. Three new teleradiology packages for the company's MagicView 50 PC-based teleradiology offering will be featured (PNN 11/97): Physician On Call, Group Practice, and Enterprise Teleradiology Network. Siemens will also display multimedia annotation features for its Sienet PACS software (PNN 6/97).
Sterling Diagnostic Imaging
The company's DirectRay (formerly Direct Radiography) flat-panel digital x-ray detectors will again assume a prime position, as the company prepares for a 1998 launch of the technology. Sterling filed for 510(k) clearance for the detectors in August.
The Greenville, SC, firm will show a work-in-progress 8-megapixel monitor designed especially for DR studies. The monitor, which could be useful for digital mammography applications, will offer higher resolution than conventional 5-megapixel monitors, according to Sterling.
Toshiba America Medical Systems
PACS technologies from OEM partner Agfa will be displayed in Toshiba's booth, including a Web-based image distribution system, a Windows NT clinical review station, and a compact CR reader. Toshiba of Tustin, CA, will also show work-list management capabilities with a RIS from IDX Systems, as well as the potential for image archiving to DVD disks.
X-ray film digitizer company Vidar makes its debut in the laser digitizer market with the release of VXR-LS. Targeted primarily at mid-range PACS and diagnostic teleradiology applications, VXR-LS features a 30-film feeder and an optical density range of 0.1 up to 3.6 OD. The digitizer can scan a 2K x 2K image and transmit it through a SCSI interface in 16 seconds, according to the Herndon, VA-based company. The company will also showcase VXR Film Director, a CCD-based digitizer that automatically digitizes up to 10 films at the touch of a button.