Radiology gains respect at Orlando HIMSS show

April 1, 1998

Radiology gains respect at Orlando HIMSS showPACS firms have high profile at conferenceWhat a difference a year makes. This year's meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found medical imaging and PACS

Radiology gains respect at Orlando HIMSS show

PACS firms have high profile at conference

What a difference a year makes. This year's meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found medical imaging and PACS vendors showing a higher profile than at last year's conference. While much work remains to be done, healthcare information technology firms are turning their attention to medical images as they strive to develop electronic patient records.

Visitors to the exhibit floor at the Orlando meeting found it virtually impossible to go far before encountering some form of PACS or PACS-related products. Full PACS products, integrated software, telemedicine systems and services, voice-recognition systems, and even consulting services were offered by over 100 of the 650 vendors attending the show.

Unlike last year's HIMSS conference in San Diego, virtually all the major PACS players were in attendance, a sixfold increase from 1997, when only a handful of vendors chose to exhibit radiology images in their booths.

One of the biggest trends in evidence at HIMSS '98 was the integration of radiology images into healthcare information systems, a step toward the Holy Grail of an enterprise-wide integrated image and information management system. For the most part, vendors displayed high-quality images, but few non-PACS vendors seemed to understand the special requirements for incorporating images into their products.

The development of integrated image and information management systems was the burning question on the minds of many HIMSS attendees: Is the trend for real? The answer is nebulous. The trend is very real, but seeing the concept become a reality remains at least a year or two away.

Established PACS players such as Agfa, Siemens, GE, Imation, Philips, EMED, Sterling, and Fuji unveiled few new initiatives or products, knowing they have fairly solid products and relationships. Some of the more successful independent companies took a spin on the dance floor with one or two new partners, but pretty much played it close to home as well. New partnerships included Access Radiology's agreement with Sunquest and Dome Imaging's deals with SpaceLabs and American Management Systems.

Developers of electronic patient records were active in soliciting new relationships, as were systems integration companies. Imnet's MedVision software was shown not only in the company's booth but in the exhibits of Eclipsys, HBO, Cerner, Compucare, Healthview, Phamis, and IDX. Most vendors implied that their OEM arrangement with Imnet covered only document imaging, but radiology images were also shown in several cases.

There were many newcomers, and a few old-timers, who showed interesting PACS products. Brit Systems had a solid showing, as did newcomer Meta Solutions. Web browsers caught the attention of many HIMSS attendees, with offerings from MedWeb, Autocytgroup, WebLink, and several others.

Consulting and systems integration services abounded at the show, garnishing over 25 entries this year alone. The dozen or so systems integrators involved directly or indirectly with PACS seemed to dramatically oversimplify tasks involved in integrating radiology images into electronic patient records. This was not unexpected, however, considering that few, if any, have gone beyond the theoretical boundaries of integrating PACS with other clinical systems.

The trend toward PACS consulting was even hotter, embraced by many of the major PACS vendors and the Big Six accounting firms as well. Siemens made a heavy push for its PACS process engineering services, while Philips, GE, Imation, and others decided to enter the fray.

What was the hottest PACS-related product of the show? Believe it or not, a product not directly related to PACS at all. We voted for ProModel's MedModel product, a $16,000 software package that allows users to perform detailed time-motion studies and output the results in a graphical, full-motion display. Between 70% and 80% of cost-justification models for PACS deal with the work-flow changes and the impact of PACS on hospital operations. No other product, including the latest and greatest in system hardware and software, demonstrated the full potential of PACS better than MedModel.

HIMSS '98 was a learning experience for everyone. It has become a must-attend show, not just for information systems managers, but for vendors of IS and PACS technology as well. If there was one thought that was prevalent regarding PACS at HIMSS, it was that radiology has finally gained respectability. Now all that's needed is to develop that respect to profitability.

-By Michael J. Cannavo and Cynthia E. Keen