PNN Vendor Profile: Fuji looks to turn CR expertise into success in PACS marketplace

July 1, 1999

PNN Vendor Profile: Fuji looks to turn CR expertise into success in PACS marketplaceCompany one of few to develop PACS software in-houseFuji Medical Systems USA was one of the last large medical imaging firms to enter the PACS market. But

PNN Vendor Profile:
Fuji looks to turn CR expertise into success in PACS marketplace

Company one of few to develop PACS software in-house

Fuji Medical Systems USA was one of the last large medical imaging firms to enter the PACS market. But the company believes its late start allows it to take easier advantage of the latest advances in computing technology, avoiding the difficulties associated with incorporating these offerings into legacy architectures.

In contrast, most of the players in the PACS market employ architectures that were developed prior to 1995, according to Clay Larsen, managing director for marketing.

“Much has changed since then,” he said. “CPU speeds have increased fourfold and network bandwidth has increased by an order of magnitude. You also now have compression and Web technology to take advantage of.”

In addition, Fuji believes its internally developed Synapse PACS offering provides a number of improvements over competitive systems available in the market today, including what the firm calls a cascadeable architecture. In this type of client-server technology, the archive and servers are distributed across a network, rather than residing on a central server. This offers users a number of advantages, including improved scalability and better fault tolerance, according to Fuji.

Fuji also points to the on-demand information access capabilities of Synapse. Instead of employing image autorouting, radiologists can log on to any workstation in the network and receive images optimized for his or her specialty and viewing preferences.

In addition, Web technology has been integrated into Synapse, serving as the basic interface for all Synapse workstations. Other offerings often rely on an appended Web server to add Web functionality to a PACS network.

Archiving is performed through a combination of redundant arrays of inexpensive disks (RAID) and digital linear tape, although Fuji can support other storage technologies, according to the firm. Barco Display Systems provides Fuji with 2K monitors, while Richardson Electronics contributes 1K displays.

CR pioneerFuji was the first vendor to offer computed radiography systems, introducing its first systems in the U.S. in 1983. The company has maintained a dominant market position in the modality, despite introductions of competing systems in the last five years. In addition to its own CR sales, several large imaging OEMs also sell Fuji readers, including GE Medical Systems, Picker International, and Siemens Medical Systems.

Viewing PACS as a natural evolution from its history in CR, Fuji in 1997 began to move into PACS. The company initially formed an alliance with Olicon Imaging Systems of Aliso Viejo, CA (PNN 5/97). That relationship was discontinued when Fuji began development of the Windows NT-based Synapse. In November 1997, Fuji announced its plan to launch Synapse (PNN 12/97), debuting the first Synapse workstations; a CR quality assurance and a CR viewing station at the 1997 RSNA meeting.

Further developments with Synapse were highlighted at the 1998 RSNA show, including the high level of integration of the Internet. Fuji demonstrated the integration of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser into the viewing software, with the browser serving as the desktop interface (PNN 1/99).

At this year’s annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference and exhibition, Fuji announced that Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Medical College of Virginia in Charlottesville, and Resurrection Health Care in Chicago had signed on as pilot sites (PNN 4/99). The company also formed an alliance with Digital Arts and Science to explore the development of a comprehensive medical imaging repository for integration into Synapse. That relationship has since dissolved, as DAS has decided to exit the medical imaging market, Larsen said.

All three of Fuji’s pilot sites have implemented various applications of Synapse, and the company has added a European site at the University of Bochum near Dùsseldorf, Germany. Fuji plans to install in-house image distribution systems at three other sites in mid-July. The company is now actively pursuing requests for proposals, Larsen said, and plans to begin implementing Synapse in commercial release in late summer.

While some might think commercialization of Synapse may be hampered by the Y2K problem that is limiting large-scale PACS purchasing, the Y2K issue might actually benefit Fuji, Larsen said.

“When we first announced that we would enter the PACS market, we had assumed a certain amount of people would already have bought PACS, but we have been pleasantly surprised that there’s been much less technology adoption than we expected,” he said. “The Y2K issue, inasmuch as it has contributed to PACS purchasing delays, may have helped us by having those additional potential customers to market to.”

In addition, smaller-scale PACS implementations such as in-house image distribution systems don’t appear to be affected thus far by the Y2K issue, Larsen said.

As Fuji moves into PACS, the company isn’t neglecting its traditional CR roots. The company last month entered the low-cost CR market with the debut of FCR 5000RE, a CR system with a price of approximately $100,000. FCR 5000RE features the same console as the company’s FCR 5000R reader, but does not include Fuji’s dynamic range control image processing algorithms or HQ high-resolution mode. Fuji is targeting FCR 5000RE for low-volume, remote clinics or intensive care environments. An HIS/RIS interface is available as an option. Shipments will begin in July.

The company has also introduced QA-WS771, a DICOM-compliant, Windows NT-based quality control workstation for technologists. QA-WS771 has a list price of $42,500.

Future prospectsAlthough Fuji is a late entry into the PACS market, that may be more of a blessing than a hindrance. Market penetration still remains at low levels, leaving plenty of time for the company to carve out a niche for itself. In addition, the vendor’s integration of the Web into its product line is a definite plus, and in line with market interest in Web technologies in PACS. Fuji also benefits from its leadership position in CR, a role that will serve the vendor well as it broadens its focus into digital image management. As Synapse systems begin to be implemented in the market, Fuji will be a company to watch over the next few years.

Fuji Medical Systems USA

419 West Avenue
Stamford, CT 06902
203/324-2000
fax: 203/327-6485

fujimed.com

Key personnelTakushi Nasu, president
Dave Armstrong, managing director, Electronic Imaging & Equipment Group
Paul Genovese, vice president, business development
Clay Larsen, managing director, marketing
John Weber, senior vice president, operations

Product linesSynapse PACS
FCR computed radiography readers

Key PACS installationsChildrens Hospital Los Angeles; Medical College of Virginia in Charlottesville; and Resurrection Healthcare in Chicago

Strategic focusAlthough a relative latecomer to the PACS market, Fuji believes its Web-based Synapse offering will allow the company to secure a solid niche. The company will look to leverage off its long experience with computed radiography to gain market share.