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Siemens IT contracts may set stage for expansion into PACS


Soarian could pave way for PACS outsourcingWhen Siemens Medical Solutions unveiled Soarian, the company described the PACS-compatible product as an information system that could "dramatically change the way healthcare is

Soarian could pave way for PACS outsourcing

When Siemens Medical Solutions unveiled Soarian, the company described the PACS-compatible product as an information system that could "dramatically change the way healthcare is delivered." Such predictions can usually be written off as hyperbole, but Siemens has since revealed the outline of an IT strategy that, coupled with Soarian, could make this one come true.

Deals cut over the last several months indicate that Siemens may be maneuvering to provide not only IT products but the staff to run them. Since February, the company has announced two outsourcing agreements--with Slidell Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Louisiana and Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, NM--

to provide services for their IT or business operations. The announcement for the Las Cruces-based center detailed the management of IT and business offices by Siemens employees.

While PACS outsourcing in the U.S. is not yet a reality, it may be a logical next step. Some PACS components, primarily image storage, are being outsourced already in Austria and Germany by healthcare practitioners who apply the storage service provider (SSP) concept. In the U.S., the application service provider (ASP) model puts such PACS functions as storage in the hands of outsiders.

"PACS already is being outsourced to a degree by the ASP concept," said Dale Hunt, a PACS consultant and president of the Thomas Group in Anaheim, CA. "As PACS companies such as Siemens and GE buy HIS/RIS companies, and HIS/RIS companies buy PACS companies, I see them offering package deals (for outsourcing)."

Technology may determine when and how easily this outsourcing transition occurs. Soarian, which seamlessly integrates PACS, IT, and business functions, could enable full PACS outsourcing.

Juergen Kress, director of marketing for the Health Services Image Management arm of Siemens Medical Solutions, believes IT and PACS will eventually blend together. That combination could pave the way for PACS outsourcing, which could begin gathering momentum by 2004, he said. Initially, rural or small hospitals would be the best candidates for such outsourcing.

"They could save considerably on time and resources by outsourcing PACS," Kress said.

Soarian may be an ideal means for taking that step. The technology, introduced in October 2001 as a work-in-progress, is designed to integrate diverse information paths and databases. It connects medical images, patient records, and billing to the daily processes of patient management. This turnkey approach promises efficiency and better patient care by orchestrating all aspects of healthcare workflow, including administrative, diagnostic, clinical, and financial.

Siemens' customers could utilize Soarian either in-house or through the Siemens' information services center, according to the company. This flexibility is possible through Soarian's use of Web browsers running on PCs, helping to position this product as the means for outsourcing PACS and IT functions.

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