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Philips forms alliance with Sectra to speed up entry into PACS market


Relationship expands on successful collaboration in SwedenPhilips Medical Systems has retooled its PACS strategy in hopesof bringing a filmless-hospital product line to market more quicklythan if it completed development of its own in-house

Relationship expands on successful collaboration in Sweden

Philips Medical Systems has retooled its PACS strategy in hopesof bringing a filmless-hospital product line to market more quicklythan if it completed development of its own in-house system. Keyto the new strategy is an alliance with PACS developer SectraImtec of Linköping, Sweden, which has developed a filmless-hospitalPACS.

The Sectra alliance is the latest chapter in Philips' ongoingPACS saga. The Shelton, CT, company was one of the first PACSvendors, through its CommView partnership with AT&T, but thateffort was discontinued in 1991 (SCAN 7/3/91). Philips' PACS workresurfaced at last year's Radiological Society of North Americameeting, when the vendor debuted its Inturis for Radiology program(SCAN 12/27/95).

Philips now relies on Sectra as its PACS software supplier,according to Fred Goeringer, director of healthcare connectivitysolutions. Goeringer directed the U.S. military's medical diagnosticimaging support (MDIS) project until he retired from the Armythis year. He joined Philips several months ago (SCAN 7/17/96).

The advantage of the Sectra relationship is that it gives Philipsa filmless-hospital PACS product that can be sold within months.Sectra has Food and Drug Administration clearance for its entirePACS line, with the exception of an archiving component, for whichclearance is imminent, Goeringer said.

"We believe we have a clinically robust and cost-effectivePACS solution for the mainstream PACS marketplace," he said."We are going to get that into the market and we are goingto sell the hell out of it for the next several years."

Sectra's PACS line is based on Hewlett-Packard Unix workstationswith 2K x 2.5K monitors for primary diagnosis. Sectra's ICS 2000soft-copy review workstations will be integrated with Philips'EasyVision modality-cluster workstations, which are used for imageacquisition and processing. The software is compliant with theDICOM 3.0 standard and has demonstrated interoperability withseveral radiology information systems, Goeringer said.

Sectra's workstations use an X-terminal concept, in which apowerful Unix central server is linked to less powerful X-terminalworkstations distributed throughout the hospital. The X-terminalsoperate like full Unix workstations but at a lower cost, Goeringersaid. Sectra's software also includes hooks to support the useof intranet and World Wide Web-based image distribution in thefuture -- another way to reduce costs.

For archiving, Sectra uses a two-tier approach. The companyemploys RAID (redundant array of independent disks) technologyfor short-term archiving, and magneto-optical disks and high-performancedigital tape for long-term archiving.

Sectra has 10 filmless projects in Northern Europe, four ofwhich are being used in routine clinical situations, accordingto Torbjörn Kronander, president of Sectra. Its most visibleproject, a hospital in Visby, Sweden, has been filmless sinceAugust 1995. Sectra intends to enter the U.S. market through OEMpartners, one of which is Philips, although the companies havenot yet signed a formal contract, Kronander said.

Philips subcontracted Sectra to do the PACS work at Visby.Their success was a major factor in Philips' decision to builda stronger relationship with Sectra, according to Goeringer.

"It's not rocket science to say let's take what's beena success in one market, and has been clinically accepted verywell there, into a mainstream market like the U.S.," Goeringersaid.

Goeringer declined to say that Philips is backing away fromInturis for Radiology, although some concepts and operating principlesof Inturis will be migrated to the Sectra products. In any event,the Sectra alliance will enable Philips to go head-to-head withmajor PACS players like Agfa and Siemens, perhaps as soon as theend of this year.

"Our message is that Philips has reemerged as a playerin the PACS and connectivity business," Goeringer said.

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