Toshiba heart study promotes good cause

August 26, 1992

Toshiba America Medical Systems has found a way to mix marketingwith a social conscience. The Tustin, CA, vendor launched a nationalprogram last year to screen high-school athletes for heart abnormalities,using Toshiba's SSH-140A portable color Doppler

Toshiba America Medical Systems has found a way to mix marketingwith a social conscience. The Tustin, CA, vendor launched a nationalprogram last year to screen high-school athletes for heart abnormalities,using Toshiba's SSH-140A portable color Doppler ultrasound scanner.

The screening program, dubbed Heart Scan, was expanded furtherthis year, and turned up an even higher rate of defects. Heartabnormalities were found in 3% of Iowa student athletes last yearand in 5.9% of a Dallas group screened in May, according to PhilipA. Smith, TAMS vice president of ultrasound operations. Smithwas reassigned to ultrasound from his position as vice presidentof x-ray and nuclear medicine in May (SCAN 5/20/92).

Toshiba donated the equipment used in the study as well asthe time of its employees. Physicians have also donated theirtime to the effort, Smith said.

"This is something that warms the heart. Collectively,the people involved in this study have recognized that it is aservice to the community," he said.

While the study uses ultrasound screening, many of the doctorsinvolved are nuclear medicine physicians, such as Dr. TimothyHart, Heart Scan research director and director of nuclear medicineat the Iowa Heart Center.

"It is really diseases of the heart that bring (the physicians)together rather than different modalities," Smith said.

A variety of hospital and office-based radiologists and cardiologistshave shown an interest in participating in the program. In somehospitals, there is competition between departments to help.

"We are not finding that we have to volunteer (physicians),"Smith said.

ULTRASOUND IS THE MODALITY of choice for diagnosing deformitiesin heart valves, he said. Color-flow Doppler can pick up the bloodregurgitation better than any other modality. The 140A systemcombines high-performance color capabilities with a portabilitythat is helpful in such a screening program, he said. The unitreceived Food and Drug Administration marketing approval in April.

Once ultrasound begins providing quantification of ejectionfraction and wall motion, the modality may serve as a substitutefor more expensive cardiac catheterization procedures, Smith said.

"With transesophageal probes getting smaller and doinga great job, this could be a legitimate substitute (for cardiaccath) over the next three to five years," he said.

The combined diagnostic and business potential of ultrasoundmakes this modality a major thrust for Toshiba worldwide, he said.Shigeyasu Kurihara, general manager of Toshiba's medical businessin Tokyo, once ran the vendor's ultrasound business unit, andKunio Sumikawa, TAMS president, was in charge of Toshiba's Europeanbusiness when ultrasound took off there. Toshiba's European ultrasoundsales should amount to over $140 million this year. The vendorcontinues to maintain the largest worldwide market share in ultrasound,Smith said.

Ultrasound sales in the U.S, while growing more slowly thisyear, are still rising at about a 7% annual rate. This is significantlybetter than the flat sales growth of some other modalities, hesaid.

Toshiba will seek to build its U.S. ultrasound position byemphasizing diagnostic value rather than price alone.

"The worst thing in the marketplace may be the competitorswho feel they have to put the lowest price out regardless of value,"Smith said. "There are people jockeying for position, buteventually earnings per share and price/earnings ratios will startto reflect this. There are no free lunches. Price performancewill always be in the equation, but this industry is highly dependenton research and development funds to continue the (product) progression."

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • ATL and Hewlett-Packard settled an ultrasound patent infringementlawsuit last week. ATL filed the suit to protect its patent rightson multiplane transesophageal echocardiography technology andwill receive an undisclosed lump sum of money from HP, the cardiacultrasound market leader.

The two vendors also exchanged cross-licenses for all of theirmultiplane transducer technology. ATL has been focusing more onhigh-end radiology than cardiology sales since the introductionof its Ultramark 9 HDI upgrade last year.