PACS firms fail to garner much attention at HIMSS show

PACS firms fail to garner much attention at HIMSS showVendors showcase PACS and HIS/RIS integration, howeverThe integration of PACS networks into other healthcare information systems has been widely touted as the next step in the

PACS firms fail to garner much attention at HIMSS show

Vendors showcase PACS and HIS/RIS integration, however

The integration of PACS networks into other healthcare information systems has been widely touted as the next step in the evolution of the digital image management marketplace. Indeed, healthcare IT departments play an increasing role in PACS purchasing, and many vendors have reported growing interest in integrated image and information systems.

In that environment, it seemed natural that this year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference and exhibition would be a boon for PACS firms anxious to raise their profile among IT professionals. For most PACS companies, however, the meeting fell short of expectations.

Despite the emphasis by PACS vendors on demonstrating their integration capabilities, the booths of these companies typically experienced light traffic, particularly those showcasing their wares in Halls A and B. Attendees who did stop by to inquire about PACS technology often were unsophisticated in their understanding of digital image management, according to several vendor representatives.

"This meeting reminds of me of RSNA about five years ago," said one company official.

As a result, many company representatives told PNN they are considering scaled-back participation in next year's show. Still, the meeting was not without newsworthy developments in digital image management.

The big news in the booth of Siemens Medical Systems was a co-marketing alliance with RIS firm IDX Systems of Burlington, VT. The agreement builds on a relationship in evidence at the Cleveland Clinic, where the two firms have integrated the multimodality vendor's PACS and modality network with IDX's IDXrad RIS offering. As part of the Cleveland Clinic project, the vendors say they have achieved true integration of RIS and PACS, and have eliminated the need for a traditional PACS/RIS interface. The nonexclusive agreement allows each company to jointly participate in marketing, sales, and installation efforts in North America.

The Siemens/IDX deal is the latest agreement between PACS and RIS firms. GE announced a similar relationship with Cerner at last year's RSNA meeting (PNN 12/98). In that deal, however, GE took an equity position in Cerner and assumed responsibility for sales and marketing efforts.

Developments from the GE/Cerner alliance are moving towards commercialization. Phase one of the integration effort between GE's PACS and Cerner's RadNet RIS, which was shown at the RSNA meeting, will be available for customers in mid-year, said Vishal Wanchoo, general manager of the firm's Mt. Prospect, IL-based Integrated Imaging Solutions division.

Since taking responsibility for sales of RadNet from Cerner on Jan. 1, GE has landed several RIS contracts, including awards from St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, AZ, and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.

In other product news, GE highlighted work-in-progress integration capabilities between its radiology and GEMNet cardiology PACS and the Muse CV cardiology information system from subsidiary GE Marquette (formerly Marquette Medical Systems). When it becomes available, users will be able to access clinical information as well as radiology and cardiology images over a Web browser application, Wanchoo said. Availability is expected by the first half of 2000.

In radiology developments, GE highlighted its PathSpeed line of Windows NT-based workstations, which the firm showcased at last year's RSNA meeting (PNN 1/99). GE is also set to release a new version of WebLink in April. The WebLink release will offer improved speed and enhanced image review functionality, including stack mode and measurement capabilities. Specialized features for demanding users such as surgery and orthopedics departments have been added.

The company also hopes to incorporate StorageTek's 9840 media into the product line by mid-year, he said. Integration of voice recognition into the PathSpeed workstation line and support for color images on PathSpeed are expected this year, he said.

Fuji Medical Systems U.S.A. has signed on Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Medical College of Virginia, and Resurrection Health Care in Chicago as pilot sites for its Synapse PACS offering, which is now commercially available. Orders for the three pilot sites will be shipped through May, and an additional two institutions will be receiving Synapse PACS technology by May, according to the Stamford, CT-based company.

In addition, Fuji has formed an alliance with Digital Arts and Sciences to explore the development of a comprehensive medical imaging repository for integration into Synapse. DAS of Alameda, CA, has developed ImageAXS Pro-Med, a software program that allows clinicians to view and manage medical and document images, text, audio, and video data with a single application (PNN 6/98). DAS employs Fuji's digital cameras for image capture of nonradiologic images from pathology, dermatology, and ophthalmology.

Fuji also highlighted three CR readers that it had introduced at last year's RSNA meeting. FCR 5000R-ID and 5000R-Console are designed for low-volume and portable imaging applications, while FCR 5501 is an upright chest reader targeted for ambulatory and transportable patients in the main radiology department and outpatient facilities, according to Fuji.

DeJarnette Research Systems reported that it is in the final stages of negotiation with an undisclosed site for beta testing of its Radiance PACS offering. General availability for Radiance is expected in the late second quarter or early third quarter, according to the Towson, MD-based company (PNN 1/99).

It was business as usual in the booth of Sterling Diagnostic Imaging, whose pending acquisition by Agfa is expected to close in the second quarter (PNN 2/99). The Greenville, SC-based company showcased its enterprise-wide image and information offerings at the meeting.

Medweb featured its work-in-progress Enterprise Telemedicine application, a Windows NT-based product that can allow any PC with a Web browser to acquire telemedicine images, according to the San Francisco-based firm. Clinicians can assemble a telemedicine consultation, including demographics, images, video, audio, DICOM studies, and scanned documents, according to Medweb.

The firm also highlighted its work-in-progress Telemed Cube, which serves as a low-cost, bidirectional telemedicine server. With Telemed Cube, clinicians can securely transmit images and reports, Medweb said.

Ultrasound vendor Acuson put the spotlight on WS3000, its new Windows NT-based ultrasound PACS workstation (PNN 1/99). The Mountain View, CA-based company also demonstrated live scanning in conjunction with networking firm Cisco Systems.

Lernout & Hauspie announced that its speech recognition technology will be incorporated into Canadian company Interpra Medical Imaging Network's InterpraRadiology work-flow management software.

A noticeable no-show on the exhibit floor was Kodak and its Cemax-Icon PACS subsidiary. Both Cemax-Icon and Kodak missed the deadline to reserve exhibit space at the show, due to activity involving Kodak's acquisition of Imation's medical imaging business, according to a Kodak spokesperson. By the time the oversight was caught, no space was available.