Philips' latest scanner targets midrange ultrasound market

March 19, 2003

Ergonomics, flexibility distinguish EnVisorThe latest ultrasound scanner to join the ranks of ergonomically designed systems is attracting interest from a wide range of customers, according to developer Philips Medical Systems. It

Ergonomics, flexibility distinguish EnVisor

The latest ultrasound scanner to join the ranks of ergonomically designed systems is attracting interest from a wide range of customers, according to developer Philips Medical Systems. It has high expectations to live up to. A market strategy document developed by Philips managers describes EnVisor as a "$100 million opportunity for 2003."

The system, which began shipping internationally in January, is being sold for applications in shared services, cardiology, radiology, and obstetrics. Customers run the gamut from large hospitals to imaging clinics and physician offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and-just this month-Latin America.

"They can count on the performance as a stress-echo or radiology system. Yet they can still run it down to the emergency department, ICU, or OR," said Janice Blackwell, director of product management for Philips' specialty ultrasound. "This is what we were designing for-the flexibility to be whatever the customer needs it to be."

The Philips scanner was designed from the ground up, combining expertise acquired by Agilent engineers who had previously developed one of the most compact and lightweight echo products on the market, OptiGo (SCAN 3/28/01), and ATL engineers who had created some of the most sophisticated radiology systems. The merger in 2001 of Agilent Healthcare Solutions Group with the ATL operations of Philips laid the groundwork.

"We took the strong focus we had in cardiology from Agilent and integrated it with ATL's strong offerings in radiology," Blackwell said. "This product is designed to go into any application area."

EnVisor is the first step by Philips Medical away from competing product platforms and toward a harmonized product portfolio. The new product combines technologies from ATL's HDI and Agilent's Sonos platforms in an ergonomic package that accentuates light weight (200 pounds) and portability, high image quality, and ease of use through an adjustable keyboard and monitor.

EnVisor includes Philips Fusion and Microfine imaging, and Ultraband transducer technology. Pulse inversion harmonic imaging and panoramic imaging are available on the high-performance configuration, EnVisor HD. Scanners can also be outfitted with stress echo.

"Clinical performance is your ticket to play," Blackwell said.

The goal is to position EnVisor to address the worldwide market for midrange products, which Philips analysts believe accounts for about 29% of total revenues. Products in this segment typically cost from $40,000 to $90,000, exactly the range Blackwell cites for EnVisor.

Philips is hedging its bets in the midrange market by also offering the HDI 4000. This system, however, emphasizes 3D imaging and may therefore be most appealing for obstetrical applications.

In contrast, improved ergonomics and flexibility are the key selling points for EnVisor. Near-instantaneous mode change, for example, offers the ability to go from 2D to color, and one-touch image optimization makes for ease of operation. The software is designed to allow quick boot-up and shutdown, which is especially important when the system is used as a mobile scanner.

"In ergonomics, we didn't focus on just the physical side of the product but on how to reduce the amount of time needed to scan," Blackwell said.

The physical side, of course, plays a big role in ease of use. EnVisor's control panel and monitor move up and down, while swiveling sideways more than 300º. With these options, operators can place controls where they want them, increasing efficiency and reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries, according to Blackwell. The small footprint of the system and its four-wheel swivel capability increase maneuverability.

The system also includes onboard data and image management capabilities that allow operators to catalog, store, and share images and patient study information. Images can be called up from thumbnails, for example. They can be edited and embedded in reports. Analysis packages support quantitative measurements. These capabilities eliminate the need for separate image management workstations, amplifying system ergonomics by streamlining workflow.

"EnVisor facilitates productivity," Blackwell said. "It does all the things that need to be done in any ultrasound environment."