PACS vendors court first-time buyers with scalable offerings

January 12, 2000

Judging by the number of vendors promoting image management products at the meeting, the PACS market has finally come of age. Of the more than 600 commercial exhibitors, nearly half claimed some kind of PACS or PACS-related product. In particular, the

Judging by the number of vendors promoting image management products at the meeting, the PACS market has finally come of age. Of the more than 600 commercial exhibitors, nearly half claimed some kind of PACS or PACS-related product. In particular, the emphasis on RIS/HIS integration and scalability signal that both the technology and the industry have reached a new level of maturity.

Most customers still see PACS as a large-scale investment, however, especially with the increasing integration of this technology with various clinical information systems and multiple modalities. Fortunately, several vendors have responded to this problem with entry-level PACS and miniPACS products that are both scalable and relatively affordable.

These products include Web- and Windows NT-based PACS workstations with user-friendly interfaces and modular components that can be mixed and matched according to the customer’s needs, scaling up as warranted. These systems are also designed to enable enterprise-wide image distribution on standard desktop PCs, making image access and transfer practical outside of the radiology department. The idea is to stimulate the market by simplifying the transition to digital image management, making PACS more attractive to smaller hospitals and clinics that are just beginning to consider an investment in the technology.

For comprehensive, vendor-by-vendor coverage of PACS companies at the meeting, please see the January issue of our sister publication, PACS & Networking News.

Agfa

  • Agfa broadened the scalability of its Impax product line with the launch of Impax Basix, an entry-level version of Impax R4. Targeted for smaller or lower-volume healthcare facilities, Impax Basix utilizes Impax hardware infrastructure but supports fewer modalities and displays, according to the Ridgefield Park, NJ-based vendor. Agfa also showed Embedded-IS, a work-in-progress option for Impax that converts the PACS offering into an integrated image and information system, adding RIS functionality. Launch is scheduled for mid-2000. Embedded-IS will also be available for Impax Basix.
  • The vendor also highlighted the extension of Impax outside of the radiology department. Impax for Cardiology, which will include Impax Basix and Embedded-IS, will be introduced at the American College of Cardiology meeting in the spring.

Applicare Medical Imaging

  • This was the first year Applicare participated at the RSNA meeting as a subsidiary of GE Medical Systems. Applicare introduced several new products, including an upgraded version of its RadWorks WebViewer that incorporates many of the features of its traditional workstations, including cine and zoom capabilities and a collaboration. A commercial version of WebViewer is expected by May.
  • Another new product from Applicare is RadStore, the company’s first NT-based, software-only digital archive that was originally developed for the U.S. Navy. Applicare also exhibited a new workgroups server for RadWorks that allows up to five departmental users to share a common database of studies.

Canon Medical Systems

  • Canon rolled out version 5.0 of its PACS software. E-mail functionality has been added in the latest release, as has improved speed and a simplified user interface. The new release also offers improved patient searching capabilities and 16-bit wavelet image compression. Security features such as fully customizable groups have been incorporated.
  • Canon also showed Canon Connector, a native RIS/PACS/imaging modality integration capability, developed as part of the Irvine, CA-based firm’s participation in the IHE project. Canon showed integration with IDX Systems’ Imaging Suite via Canon Connector in its booth.

Cedara Software

  • Having recently changed its name from ISG Technologies, Cedara Software was busy launching its new identity and making several business-related announcements. In addition to formally announcing a new product-development partnership with ADAC Laboratories, the Toronto-based company has signed an agreement with Pegasus Imaging of Tampa, FL, to incorporate Pegasus’ PICTools medical image compression technology into Cedara’s PACS and imaging development toolkit.
  • On the product side, Cedara emphasized its radiology and cardiology imaging and image management tools. New products included the Cardiology Component suite, which features 4-D capabilities for viewing the heart in motion.

DeJarnette Research Systems

  • This connectivity company showcased its first turnkey PACS product, Radiance, introduced as a work-in-progress at the 1998 RSNA meeting. The system includes the company’s VisiShare line of Windows NT-based workstations; MediShare IQ, a database manager and HIS/RIS interface; and NetShare IQ, which connects modalities to DICOM networks. As part of this demonstration, the Towson, MD-based vendor also showed connectivity with the NT-based RadWare RIS from WebMedix and a film digitizer and computed radiography reader from Lumisys using DeJarnette’s ImageShare CR and ImageShare FD acquisition stations. The ImageShare products sell for under $50,000 and are intended as entry-level systems, according to the company.
  • DeJarnette also introduced several new products and product enhancements at the meeting, including the new Information Attendant, a DICOM image management device that comprises a computer and touchscreen in a single package that can be mounted on the wall.

DR Systems

  • DR Systems featured an expanded version of its DR Reporter digital dictation system that adds canned report and speech recognition capabilities. DR Systems also unveiled a work-in-progress interactive 3-D reconstruction package for its Dominator primary reading stations and another work-in-progress DVD with archiving capabilities.
  • Also on display was Web Ambassador, a Web-based version of the San Diego, CA-based company’s Ambassador image distribution system that provides access to images for referring physicians and radiologists at home via the Internet or an intranet.

Eastman Kodak/Cemax-Icon

  • The overriding theme in the Kodak booth was integrated imaging. In PACS, Kodak promoted its PACS Link system, which enables laser imagers to accept image data from multiple imaging modalities and transmit the data to other laser imaging systems, digital archives, and workstations. The company sees PACS Link as a PACS starting point for healthcare providers that can then become an image management module once a full-blown PACS is implemented.
  • Cemax-Icon launched the third generation of its AutoRad primary and clinical workstations, which are now Windows NT-based, run on high-speed storage area networks, and enable enterprise-wide access to and review of clinical images.
  • The company also debuted an upgrade to the ArchiveManager workflow management system, which now features a Java-based Web administration tool and a new high-speed jukebox. Cemax-Icon also demonstrated a work-in-progress integrated RIS/PACS connection.

eMed Technologies

  • eMed emphasized its new identity and Internet-based technology services at the meeting. The Lexington, MA-based company introduced eMed.net, an Internet Web site development and hosting service designed to provide radiologists, radiology groups, and departments with a business tool to manage communications of radiology services via their own Web sites. eMed.net users are charged a monthly subscription fee. The service includes Web site development, server software and hardware, and Web client licenses.
  • eMed also introduced entre, an entry-level PACS designed for imaging centers and smaller imaging facilities. entre provides diagnostic image viewing, short- and long-term archiving, and image transmission.

Fuji Medical Systems USA

  • In the PACS arena, the Stamford, CT-based company introduced a new version of its Synapse PACS. Synapse release 1.3.0 expands upon the system’s Web-based architecture with advanced diagnostic features, including cross-sectional display capabilities and improved productivity.
  • Fuji also promoted its recently FDA-approved lossy wavelet compression algorithm, AON (“access over networks”), that offers a 20:1 compression ratio. It is currently being marketed as an option within Synapse and will be released at the end of the first quarter.

GE Medical Systems

  • GE emphasized the role of integration and performance in productivity and workflow and introduced the concept of distributed on-demand imaging. Specific PACS products included the new PathSpeed Xtend, a technology platform designed to facilitate PC-based image access and integration. Xtend was demonstrated in conjunction with several applications, including voice recognition from Talk Technology and clinical applications (including 3-D) via Advantage Windows products.
  • GE also displayed an RIS application that enables all RIS functions traditionally done on an RIS terminal to be part of an integrated application on the PathSpeed workstation. The Waukesha, WI-based vendor also demonstrated Prism, a work-in-progress integrated PACS/RIS developed in conjunction with Cerner. Another work-in-progress was e-velocity, which enables lossless diagnostic-quality imaging using Web-based technologies.

Imco

  • The former U.S. subsidiary of Rogan Medical Systems B.V. announced a management buyout and new name: Imco. As part of its reorganization, the Pewaukee, WI-based company is looking to expand its technology portfolio into image and workflow management and related products and services.
  • In product news, Imco showcased DVD-R Jukebox, a 4.7 gigabyte archive that can store seven times more data than CD-R, according to the company.

Marconi Medical Systems

  • Marconi indicated that it is planning an increased emphasis and investment in its healthcare information systems operations. This growing investment by Marconi is already having an impact on the vendor’s PACS operations. At the show, Marconi highlighted PACS technology powered by asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) backbone switches from Fore Systems, which Marconi acquired in late 1999. Fore also provided the ATM infrastructure for show exhibitors, and for infoSystem, a network of more than 200 workstations available for meeting attendees.
  • The vendor also highlighted its systems integration capabilities with the debut of Conserus, an image and information management concept that brings together all components of healthcare information systems, including PACS, RIS, electronic patient record software, and other products integrated to meet the information demands of healthcare institutions, according to Marconi.

Merge Technologies

  • Merge showcased its MergeWorks suite of image and information management applications, which include the CaseWorks integrated diagnostic reporting tool. CaseWorks has been completely rebuilt following the company’s acquisition of Canadian workflow and information management products developer Interpra last August; Interpra’s Web architecture now serves as the infrastructure for CaseWorks. Merge has also redeveloped its information management offerings to support a modular, scalable approach for customers. The new infrastructure employs a Java-based healthcare database repository. Merge also emphasized its workflow management capabilities at the show.

Philips Medical Systems

  • In PACS, Philips introduced version 6.1 of Inturis for Radiology, designed to enable users to make multiple queries to various databases across modalities and vendors from a single PACS workstation. It features a new user interface redesigned for better ergonomics, workflow, and user efficiency; voice-command and speech-recognition capabilities; a flat-panel monitor option; enhanced security features; a worklist generation engine; and default display protocols.
  • Philips also released version 3.0 of EasyWeb for enterprise wide distribution of radiology images and reports. EasyWeb 3.0 is a Java-based package designed to speed distribution, shorten report turnaround time, and improve workflow. New features include cine-capture capabilities and improved security through data encryption.
  • Philips also debuted a work-in-progress called RIIMS, an integrated RIS/PACS application developed in conjunction with Sectra-Imtec.

Siemens Medical Systems

  • Siemens highlighted the integration of PACS and modalities with radiology and other information systems throughout the healthcare enterprise. New products included syngo, a Windows NT-based software application platform for user interfaces, viewing, image processing, printing, and DICOM/HL7 communications.
  • Other products included MagicStart, an existing miniPACS that Siemens is re-marketing as an entry-level product. Other new products included MagicView Mondo, an NT-based reporting workstation; enhanced software for the MagicView 300 that enables a direct connection with a data archive and film digitizer; and MagicWatch, a remote systems monitoring and maintenance service. Siemens also debuted a new version of SieNet MagicWeb, which uses commercially available Web browsers to make images and reports available at the point of care.
  • Working in conjunction with IDX Systems, Siemens has also developed an integrated PACS/RIS capability.

Toshiba America Medical Systems

  • Toshiba launched a new family of multimodality miniPACS products at the show. Using technology developed by Impax Technology, the joint technology venture between Agfa and Mitra, simPACS serves as a Windows NT-based technology platform that is customized for each modality. SimPACS is meant to broaden Tustin, CA-based Toshiba’s presence in the PACS field by adding an entry-level system to its already established PACS business through its PACS partner Agfa. The company also introduced a new DVD jukebox that sells for $120,000-$200,000, depending on the size and configuration.