RealTimeImage expands PACS gateway with release of two products at RSNA meeting

November 14, 2001

Web supports rapid low-cost PACS substituteRealTimeImage is adding two products that expand access to images in distributed environments and bolster short-term archive capability. Scheduled for launch at the upcoming RSNA show, the

Web supports rapid low-cost PACS substitute

RealTimeImage is adding two products that expand access to images in distributed environments and bolster short-term archive capability. Scheduled for launch at the upcoming RSNA show, the Mega iPACS and iPACS Prism could prove particularly attractive to clinics and hospitals that can’t afford a conventional PACS but need to find ways to distribute images inside and outside the institution.

“We are not trying to offer a total PACS solution,” said Gene Rubel, vice president of medical imaging at RTI, based in San Bruno, CA. “We’re much more focused.”

The clamor for access to diagnostic-quality images outside the radiology suite has created opportunity for vendors like RTI, which introduced iPACS at the 1999 RSNA meeting. The iPACS allows users to access and view diagnostic-quality images and image sequences on a standard PC in near-real-time over the Internet.

The Web-based image server incorporates RTI’s proprietary image streaming technology, Pixels-on-Demand, which uses a wavelet-based algorithm to generate partial spatial transforms of areas of interest. The iPACS server can open even gigabyte-sized images locally or remotely within seconds. No preprocessing or intermediate storage is required, even when a dial-up modem connection is being used for access.

To date, the iPACS series has included a streaming module interface (SMI) for integration with OEM products; iPACS Vue, which is a basic viewer; and iPACS Enterprise, a stand-alone Web-server solution. The new iPACS Prism adds short-term storage and full DICOM acquisition capabilities to iPACS Enterprise.

“Prism is for situations where users have digital acquisition devices, but no central archive,” Rubel said. “Or they might be interested in going digital but don’t have the resources, or the need, to put in a PACS.”

The iPACS Prism Web server can be connected directly to acquisition modalities and workstations using DICOM protocols that enable full digital workflow. The product’s short-term archiving capability makes images available for local reading and for distribution over the Internet.

“It satisfies the need to go digital, with access to streaming technology in the same unit,” Rubel said.

Mega iPACS allows hundreds of concurrent users to access images if they are connected to either a large central image archive or several geographically distributed archives. It provides full streaming capabilities and advanced data integration for facilities with multiple distributed servers. These might include large individual hospitals that must make studies available to hundreds of users inside and outside the hospital, or organizations that rely on a distributed architecture for archiving.

The product has sparked keen interest in hospitals outside the U.S., where conventional PACS offerings are often beyond financial reach, Rubel said. There may also be strong potential within the U.S., particularly among outpatient centers. A chain of 10 imaging centers, for example, could all be linked via the Mega iPACS server, so that within seconds a radiologist at one center could pull images residing at another.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, or where the images are, you can find the images for a given patient no matter where they were acquired,” Rubel said. “It’s a distributed environment. We’re finding that in more and more places it’s very expensive to bring data together. With Mega iPACS you can leave the data where they are.”

In addition to access, Mega iPACS enables comprehensive searching and indexing across the distributed servers based on any criterion, such as a particular patient, reading, or referring physician.

In the past year, RTI has inked alliances with companies including InSiteOne, which provides archive and image retrieval services; digital radiography vendor Wuestec; and Kodak, which has integrated RTI’s image streaming technology into its distributed medical imaging (DMI) systems. The Kodak deal is the first truly high-profile partnership that RTI has landed since its 1999 launch. Initially, company executives expected more interest from major PACS vendors in RTI’s proprietary technology, Rubel said.

“Apart from Kodak, that hasn’t happened. But we’re not sulking. We’re pursuing other partners and projects,” he said.

One of these is a mammography and breast cancer CAD study based in Paris involving multiple clinics and university-based researchers. The iPACS Prism server is being used to support the distributed image environment.

Company objectives at the upcoming RSNA meeting include working with existing partners, courting new ones, and generally creating higher visibility for the company. Rubel says RTI will have an advantage over competitors because its technology does not require image preprocessing or temporary storage during transfer. In addition, RTI’s products work just as well at transferring images outside the institution as within it.

“To the extent that you’re interested in satisfying users outside the hospital who are working on phone or modem connections, we’re the only folks in town,” Rubel said. “And those kinds of demands are increasing, whether it’s radiologists on call or practices trying to collaborate with someone in Australia.”