PACS moves to forefront at AHRA national meetingLimited exhibit hours discourage some vendors, howeverBy Michael J. Cannavo, president, Image Management ConsultantsTrue to the explorer whose name it bears, the Coronado Ballroom yielded a
Limited exhibit hours discourage some vendors, however
By Michael J. Cannavo, president, Image Management Consultants
True to the explorer whose name it bears, the Coronado Ballroom yielded a few golden PACS nuggets for the 1000-plus attendees at the national meeting of the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators in Orlando. In addition, excellent attendance at the 14 PACS-related plenary sessions at the late July meeting led industry watchers to conclude that digital image management is being designed into virtually every radiology department.
Although the limited show hours discouraged some vendors from exhibiting, PACS maintained a strong presence, with more than 20 companies displaying their wares. Eastman Kodak and Canon Medical Systems had exceptionally strong showings; each demonstrated its PACS and computed radiography or digital radiography products.
Agfa also had a strong presence, although the ramifications of its recent purchase of Sterling Diagnostic Imaging are still being felt. In private showings, Agfa presented work-in-progress developments with mobile and portable CR technology. Slated to compete in price with existing low-end CR readers, but to offer performance comparable to mid-tier technology, these products are scheduled to enter beta testing in 2000. Commercial delivery is expected in mid-2001.
Siemens Medical Systems chose a more low-key approach to the show this year, as did GE Medical Systems. Many specialized players such as Access Radiology (now eMed Technologies), Acuson, Brit Systems, DR Systems, Images-on-Call, OA Systems, Wam!Net, and others took the opportunity to spend time with customers.
Konica showed its NetStar PACS product line and Regius CR offering. ALI Technologies exhibited for the first time since its acquisition of Olicon Imaging Systems. In a booth across from Agfa, Hologic made its first key appearance since purchasing Sterlings Direct Radiography assets (PNN 6/99). F.Y.I. HealthServe highlighted the teleradiology arch- iving program it acquired from Olicon (PNN 2/99).
The AHRA show has traditionally been strong for radiology information system vendors, and this year was no exception, even though RIS sales have been fairly flat for years. McKesson HBOC, Sunquest Information Systems, and Cerner participated in the meeting. In product launch news, webmedx (formerly Radnet) debuted Electronic Radiology Jacket, an integrated RIS and PACS offering. Available now, Electronic Radiology Jacket is a full-featured RIS, including billing, scheduling, and digital dictation capabilities. Web-based access to off-site images is also provided. The PACS component of Electronic Radiology Jacket is provided by an undisclosed OEM.
Picker emphasized its commitment to Applicare Medical Imagings RadWorks software. The company was also the subject of persistent rumors on the show floor, with revived scuttlebutt about a business combination with Philips. As is its custom with rumors, Philips declined to comment,while a Picker spokesperson said that there was no truth to the rumor.
Among the companies that previously exhibited but were possibly scared off by this years limited exhibit hours were film digitizer and CR firm Lumisys. Scanner competitors Vidar and Howtek both displayed their digitizers, however, with Vidar officially launching its new mammography scanner (PNN 8/99). Data General, which partnered with Markcare Medical Systems and has made a strong push into PACS in recent months through its Meditech connections, opted not to show this year. This decision may be attributable to EMCs acqui- sition of the firm last month (see story, page 2).
Comdisco representatives highlighted the firms strong push into PACS leasing services, although the company did not exhibit on the convention floor.
In contrast with the technology developments expected to be seen at this years RSNA meeting, few Web-based solutions were shown at the AHRA meeting. Vendors apparently chose to focus their resources on the RSNA show to take advantage of its larger number of attendees.