Philips assumes system integrator role as means for success in PACS marketVendor believes it has built solid position in U.S. marketPhilips Medical Systems was one of the earliest PACS companies, but despite its pioneering role, it has
Vendor believes it has built solid position in U.S. market
Philips Medical Systems was one of the earliest PACS companies, but despite its pioneering role, it has struggled to find success in the PACS market. The multimodality vendor now believes that it has finally built the product line and infrastructure necessary to compete in the highly competitive marketplace for large-scale PACS.
Rather than try to develop the ability to support filmless environments on its own, Philips has decided to work with other vendors to put together a solution for customers.
"We believe that the way to go is to pull together and integrate best-of-breed solutions in a systems integration or ensemble approach," said Fred Goeringer, managing director of the vendor's Integrated Clinical Solutions division.
As one of the early adopters of PACS technology, Philips has traced an interesting path to its present position. In the early 1980s, Philips entered the PACS and teleradiology market through an agreement with Raytel. Later, the company introduced computed radiography scanners through an OEM agreement with Fuji.
In 1988, Philips made waves in the market with a partnership with AT&T Medical Diagnostics Systems to develop a comprehensive PACS called CommView. That product appeared to be ahead of its time, however, and the relationship between the two firms was terminated in 1991, when Philips decided to focus on developing miniPACS and teleradiology applications instead of full-blown PACS networks.
For a time, the company offered an OS/2-based teleradiology product designed for on-call, overread, and ICU/CCU applications. Philips also emphasized its EasyVision modality workstation concept during this period. The Unix-based EasyVision workstations, which are still a key element of the vendor's PACS concept, were designed to yield modality-focused miniPACS environments.
"That was an important period for Philips, because it validated some of the finer points of the tight coupling needed between the modality and the physician's work spot," Goeringer said.
In 1993, Philips debuted ThoraVision, a direct-sensor, selenium-based digital radiography system for chest applications. In addition to ThoraVision, Philips continues to offer phosphor-plate CR systems from its OEM relationship with Fuji. Philips contributes its own image-processing algorithms to the PCR line, which has been an important factor in recent PACS sales, according to the company.
"If you look at the orders and PACS projects we've won, virtually every one of them has included the Philips PCR solution," Goeringer said.
The company reemerged on the PACS scene at the 1995 Radiological Society of North America meeting with the launch of Inturis for Radiology, a modality-cluster PACS concept. Philips extended Inturis to full-scale PACS through a partnership with Swedish PACS vendor Sectra-Imtec at the 1996 RSNA meeting. Sectra now performs PACS software development for the two firms, while Philips handles the EasyVision product line. The Swedish firm maintains a direct sales presence in the Scandinavian market, with Philips in charge of most direct sales opportunities in the other global markets.
Philips received Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance in June for Sectra's products, an event that allowed Philips to compete for filmless-hospital installations in the U.S. (PNN 9/97). Executives at Philips believe the alliance with Sectra was a milestone in the development of the company's PACS portfolio.
In addition to building its large-scale PACS products, Philips is especially proud of Inturis for Cardiology, a cardiac image archiving and information management system that the company developed in collaboration with image management firm Camtronics of Hartland, WI. Inturis for Cardiology fits well with the vendor's cardiac cath lab products, Goeringer said, and the company placed 45 systems in 1997. Philips looks for continued robust growth from this program, due to what it considers to be pent-up demand for connectivity in the cardiology marketplace.
Inturis for Radiology consists of the company's traditional EasyVision modality-focused computers, as well as PACS software contributed by Sectra. Release 4.0 of the EasyVision workstation family was introduced at the 1997 RSNA meeting. The new version brings the ability to view image data from several modalities at a single workstation, among other capabilities, according to the company.
For PACS workstations, the company uses Sectra's IDS 4.0 workstation software, which provides features specifically targeted at U.S. and Canadian radiologists, according to Sectra. Suitable for general-purpose, multimodality PACS applications, the Windows NT-based IDS 4.0 comes in configurations ranging from 1024 x 1280 up to 2K x 2.5K, and includes work-flow components aimed at enhancing radiologists' productivity and cost-effectiveness.
Philips also offers SiteView, a workstation designed for clinician review of images.
For database management, Sectra contributes the Wise database upgrade, which provides remote network management using distributed architecture. At the 1997 RSNA meeting, Philips debuted Wise/lite, which is a smaller configuration of Wise aimed at teleradiology and cluster-based miniPACS environments, according to the company.
In HIS/RIS integration products, the company offers EasyLink, a HL-7-compliant interface engine developed in collaboration with Canadian software developer Mitra Imaging.
While Philips has changed its PACS focus several times in the last decade, the company appears to finally have its house in order. The firm has landed several large-scale PACS contracts in the last year, and seems to have a solid base from which to move forward in the U.S. The strong performance of the Inturis for Cardiology program is also a bright spot for Philips.
The company's decision to fill in gaps in the product line by partnering with other vendors is a shrewd one, in light of the rapid pace of technology development in PACS. It seems clear that Philips will be a significant player in the PACS market for the foreseeable future.
Philips Medical Systems North America
Integrated Clinical Solutions
710 Bridgeport Ave.
Shelton, CT 06484-0917
Fred Goeringer, managing director
Michael Valante, national sales manager
Inturis for Radiology
Inturis for Cardiology
EasyVision modality workstations
PCR computed radiography systems
Thoravision digital chest radiography system
Direct and OEM sales
Selected large-scale PACS customers
Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Riverside, CA; Emory Clinic North in Atlanta; Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology in St. Louis, MO (chest PACS); Baptist Health Systems of South Florida; Manchester Royal Infirmary in Manchester, U.K.; and Centro di Riferimento Oncologico (CRO) in Aviano, Italy.
Sectra-Imtec (PACS software development and joint sales); Mitra Imaging (EasyLink HIS/RIS interface engineer); Camtronics (Inturis for Cardiology program).
Philips is positioning itself as a systems integrator that offers scalable PACS solutions ranging from miniPACS to filmless environments. The vendor also sees a lot of potential in its successful Inturis for Cardiology program.