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Philips gets green light to begin U.S. sales of Sectra PACS software


Philips gets green light to begin U.S. sales of Sectra PACS softwareAlliance with Sectra already paying dividends in EuropePhilips Medical Systems North America, a major player in the North American PACS market in the technology's early

Philips gets green light to begin U.S. sales of Sectra PACS software

Alliance with Sectra already paying dividends in Europe

Philips Medical Systems North America, a major player in the North American PACS market in the technology's early years, is seeking a return to PACS glory. Working in conjunction with Swedish PACS software developer Sectra-Imtec, Philips received Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance in June for two software releases that the vendor believes will make it a formidable competitor in the North American filmless-hospital market.

The Philips and Sectra partnership has already met with success in Europe, securing over 20 partially and completely filmless sites, said Michael Valante, senior marketing manager for the Shelton, CT-based vendor's Integrated Clinical Solutions division. The two have collaborated on three sites that are filmless except for mammography. One of these, Visby Hospital in Sweden, has been filmless since 1995.

Now, Philips and Sectra are looking to transfer that experience to the North American market. To date, Philips has installed miniPACS networks as part of its Inturis for Radiology program at over 100 U.S. sites. Armed with two new software releases from Sectra that specifically target the needs of the U.S. PACS market, Philips has begun to compete for filmless hospital contracts in the region. Its first North American filmless site, at Emory Clinic North in Atlanta, GA, was scheduled to go filmless on Aug. 25.

"Philips is assembling the technology and the organization to again be a market leader in the implementation and development of full-scale PACS," Valante said. "But our vision extends a little beyond that, including a focus on cardiology as well as a focus on the overall enterprise."

Philips was one of the original PACS vendors, entering the market in the 1980s through a relationship with Raytel. In 1987, Philips began a much-publicized partnership with then-AT&T Medical Diagnostics Systems to develop a comprehensive PACS product line called CommView. A number of CommView systems were installed, but the relationship was discontinued in 1991, when Philips decided to focus instead on developing teleradiology applications and scalable PACS networks, Valante said.

The company reemerged on the PACS scene at the 1995 Radiological Society of North America meeting, when it unveiled Inturis for Radiology, a modality cluster PACS concept. Converting Inturis into a full-scale PACS offering may have been a more daunting task than Philips realized, however, and in October 1996 Philips announced that it had partnered with Sectra-Imtec to market that company's PACS software in the U.S. Philips executives said then that it made the move in order to bring a full-line PACS offering to market more quickly than it could have if it continued solely with internal development.

The June FDA clearances of Sectra's products mean that Philips now has the regulatory go-ahead to compete for filmless-hospital installations. The first Sectra software release, called IDS 4.0, provides workstation features specifically targeted to meet the needs of U.S. and Canadian radiologists, said John Goble, president of Sectra North America. Goble recently joined Sectra after serving as healthcare workstation manager for Hewlett Packard.

IDS 4.0 features work-flow components aimed at enhancing radiologists' productivity and cost-effectiveness, Goble said, and are designed for general-purpose, multimodality PACS applications. The EasyVision workstations from Philips retain their traditional role as modality-focused computers within the Inturis for Radiology concept, and offer advanced features such as spiral CT reconstruction and surgical planning.

Both EasyVision and IDS 4.0 workstations are DICOM-compatible and can communicate with each other, Goble said. IDS 4.0 workstations come in configurations ranging from 1024 x 1280 up to 2K x 2.5K. IDS 4.0 began shipments to both European and North American customers in June.

Sectra's WISE (Wardline Information Service Environment) database upgrade provides remote network management and employs distributed architecture to ensure continued operation of the network in the event of a breakdown, Goble said. Since WISE employs off-the-shelf components, it also is well positioned to take advantage of Web-based technology and other developments in the computer hardware industry, Valante said.

The new releases incorporate several kinds of image compression algorithms, such as lossless and lossy wavelet methods. Also, new compression algorithms can be added as they become available, and users can select the appropriate compression method to fit their particular clinical need, Valante said.

In other Philips PACS news, Thomas Giordano, director of special projects in the PACS division, has accepted another job within Philips. He will now serve as director of technical x-ray marketing, with responsibility for the vendor's conventional and digital x-ray products.

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