PNN Vendor Profile: Vidar seeks growing role for CCD-based digitizers

September 1, 1999

Vidar seeks growing role for CCD-based digitizersFirm highlights economics, image quality of CCD technologyLaser film scanners have long been the gold standard for digitizing film for the PACS and teleradiology marketplaces. But digitizers

Vidar seeks growing role for CCD-based digitizersFirm highlights economics, image quality of CCD technology

Laser film scanners have long been the gold standard for digitizing film for the PACS and teleradiology marketplaces. But digitizers employing charged-coupled device (CCD) technology have lately begun to take on a higher profile, owing to their dramatically lower prices and growing evidence of clinical utility.

One company that hopes to take advantage of this trend is Vidar Systems, a firm that has built a dominant position in the market for digitizers employed in radiation oncology applications. Vidar now intends to increase its market penetration in the PACS and teleradiology sectors. In response to a long-held market belief that laser digitizers are superior to CCD-based scanners, Vidar has been sponsoring clinical research comparing laser and CCD-based digitizers, said Brian Beardslee, director of Vidar’s medical business.

“Our strategy to change that market perception is to run well-designed scientific clinical studies that show that the ability of radiologists to do their job is not impacted by their use of CCD technology,” he said.

Vidar is funding research at highly regarded institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, the Mallinckrodt Institute, and the University of Lund in Sweden, which is evaluating the company’s digitizers in breast imaging applications.

In addition, Vidar is emphasizing the economics of its CCD-based digitizers.

“Our message is that CCD is clinically equal to laser, and it costs much less,” Beardslee said.

Document imaging legacyFormed over 15 years ago, privately held Vidar focused initially on document imaging, and still derives a substantial portion of its revenues from those operations. In 1990, Vidar broadened the scope of its business with the acquisition of TruVel, a desktop scanning firm that had also developed digitizers for radiology applications. Vidar continued those efforts, marketing its digitizers for healthcare applications under the TruVel name. At the 1993 RSNA meeting, Vidar introduced VXR-12, the company’s first Vidar-branded digitizer. VXR-12 plus, an upgraded version of VXR-12, is still offered, although it will be discontinued by mid-2000, Beardslee said.

The firm has placed between 4000 and 5000 scanners worldwide in healthcare applications, and experienced 400% overall revenue growth between 1994 and 1998, he said.

Ironically, Vidar actually contemplated bringing a laser scanner to market at one time. The firm received Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance for a laser film digitizer in 1997, but in early 1998, it elected not to proceed with commercialization (PNN 6/98). Company executives cited the high maintenance required by laser digitizers and the rapidly growing performance of CCD-based digitizers.

Vidar has been active in debuting new CCD-based digitizers, however. At the 1998 RSNA meeting, it introduced DiagnosticPro, which features a more sophisticated CCD array and digital electronics design than are available on other Vidar digitizers (PNN 1/99). With the company’s High Definition CCD (HD-CCD) technology, DiagnosticPro acquires images at 8K x 10K x 16 bits. After acquisition, DiagnosticPro performs image processing to maximize image quality at 2K x 2.5K x 12 bits. Optical density range for DiagnosticPro is zero to 3.65. List price is $14,995.

At the Society of Breast Imaging meeting in May, Vidar debuted MammographyPro, a mammography film digitizer that can support applications such as remote diagnosis and computer-assisted diagnosis (PNN 6/99). MammographyPro uses Vidar’s HD-CCD technology, and features a spot size of 31 microns, as well as an optical density range between zero and 3.65. Mammography Pro has a list price of $20,000.

Vidar built on its radiation therapy position at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine in July, where it unveiled the VXR-16 and VXR-16 DosimetryPro film digitizers. The digitizers employ the firm’s High Definition CCD technology, and acquire images at 8K x 10K resolution with a 16-bit converter. It has an optical density range of zero to 3.65. VXR-16 converts 16 bits of gray-scale data to 12 bits, and is used in conjunction with radiation treatment planning systems.

VXR-16 DosimetryPro delivers 16 bits of gray-scale and 65,536 shades of gray, a capability that provides radiation physicists and oncologists with consistent high-resolution, reproducible analyses of radiation treatment beams used for cancer therapy.

Many market watchers believe that the prospects for x-ray film digitizers are declining, due to the rise of digital radiography systems and lower cost computed radiography systems. In part because of these trends, film digitizer market leader Lumisys of Sunnyvale, CA, elected to launch a low-end CR reader, called ACR-2000 DesktopCR.

But Vidar believes the digitizer market has plenty of life left, particularly since the widespread utilization of DR systems is a few years off, according to Beardslee. In addition, Vidar sees the international market as a strong growth opportunity. Most hospitals outside the U.S. view teleradiology as the entry point to PACS, and are therefore logical consumers of digitizer technology, he said.

Ultimately, however, Vidar will have to diversify its product line beyond digitizers. The company is investigating a number of CR and DR approaches, Beardslee said, but he declined to comment on what technology Vidar would pursue or to provide a timeline for a product introduction.

Future prospectsWith cost constraints increasing in healthcare, Vidar’s emphasis on lower cost CCD-based digitizers should pay off in its efforts to increase its share in the PACS and teleradiology sector. Radiologists are notoriously fickle and reluctant to depart from historical norms, but mounting research beneficial to CCD digitizers will undoubtedly help Vidar’s cause. As it lands more OEM deals, Vidar will solidify its place in the marketplace for the foreseeable future.

Vidar Systems

460 Spring Park Place
Herndon, VA 20170
800/471-7226
fax: 703/471-1165

vidar.com

Key personnelGunder Lilius, president and CEO
Brian Beardslee, director, medical business line
Manning Phillips, director, worldwide PACS/teleradiology, and telemedicine segments
Joe Barden, director, worldwide oncology segments

Product lineVXR family of film digitizers (radiation oncology applications)
TeleRadPro digitizer (at-home teleradiology)
DiagnosticPro digitizer (remote primary diagnosis)
MammographyPro digitizer (mammography)

Product distributionOEM channels

Key OEMsRadiation oncology: ADAC Laboratories, Computerized Medical Systems, Helax, Impac Medical Systems, Siemens Oncology Care Systems, and Varian Oncology Systems.
PACS and teleradiology: Applicare Medical Imaging, Cemax-Icon, Line Imaging, Meta Solutions, Rogan Medical Systems, and StorComm.

Strategic focusVidar hopes to increase its share of the film digitizer market for PACS and teleradiology applications by emphasizing the growing clinical utility and economic advantages of CCD-based film scanners.