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Toshiba ultrasound builds market-focused structure


Toshiba America Medical Systems has increased staff in its ultrasounddivision and rearranged the organization's structure to providea clearer focus on specific market requirements. The vendor alsohas launched an effort to build clinical alliances and

Toshiba America Medical Systems has increased staff in its ultrasounddivision and rearranged the organization's structure to providea clearer focus on specific market requirements. The vendor alsohas launched an effort to build clinical alliances and openedits works-in-progress efforts more to public view in order toconvey technical strengths, according to Philip A. Smith, vicepresident of ultrasound business operations.

Last fall, TAMS created and staffed a cardiology/vascular imaginggroup in ultrasound to provide a focus separate from radiology.Eight regional managers were added, one each for radiology andcardiology/vascular. An effort was made to bring top-notch industrytalent to the sales organization, Smith told SCAN.

"Of our 42 direct sales people, 33 are brand-new,"Smith said. "These are professionals who will sell valueand be a bit more disciplined in pricing. We are asking customerswhat we can do in alliances together."

Five doctors were recently brought to Japan by TAMS in a programdubbed Operation Neptune, he said. They had an opportunity tospeak with Toshiba engineers on requirements to advance clinicalultrasound in the U.S.

Market managers have been given more autonomy in order to improvereactions to the market demands, Smith said. One result was afresher, more open display at the 1992 Radiological Society ofNorth America conference. The Toshiba booth furnished more specificproduct information than was available in the past.

"It is their (the managers) business to run," Smithsaid. "This has brought more attention to details on pricing,competitive reactions and focus."

Each marketing manager is also developing three-year productplans for the ultrasound segments and interacting with correspondingpersonnel in Japan. One result was a focus on works-in-progressat the RSNA meeting, he said.

"We want to let people know that we are working on a lotof projects. In the past, we have kept this more in the closet.Now we are showing some of these things we are doing," Smithsaid.

Works-in-progress at the RSNA conference included ultrasoundangiography with a three-dimensional capability and high-frequencyendoscopic ultrasound, labeled Microprobe. Toshiba also showedits notebook computer with a radiology capability for low-costportable display of images.

The 2.4-mm Microprobe will fit down the middle of an endoscopefor gastrointestinal diagnosis. Esophageal cancer is one of thedisease states that Toshiba has identified as a growing concern,Smith said.

"Our whole thrust (in product planning) is to look atdisease and concentrate on where deaths are occurring, which isheart disease and cancer," Smith said.

Lung cancer continues to be the most deadly form of cancerfor both women and men. Second is breast cancer for women andprostate for men. The third deadliest cancer for both sexes iscolorectal cancer, he said.

The notebook computer is an approved cardiology product thatis being adapted for radiology. It combines ultrasound and nucleardisplay on a $12,000 device. With an interface box, total costis around $35,000.

TAMS is not convinced that the ultrasound market is lookingfor expensive PACS products at this time, Smith said. Customerswill first buy equipment that can expand revenue directly.

"The market for the next two years is going to be flat.If someone can come up with $100,000, they will buy an (imaging)machine and not (a device to) move images back and forth. We areseeing physicians very reluctant to buy right now," he said.

Hospitals that are maintaining ultrasound profit margins tendto invest in additional scanners that have a direct impact onthe bottom line, he said.

One emerging market trend Smith sees is a consolidation ofphysician groups and the creation of miniclinics that combineimaging with other specialities. These sites will look for systemsthat can improve throughput, much as multihead cameras have donein nuclear medicine, he said.

Customers are also increasingly interested in affordable scannersthat can be moved around the hospital rather than remaining inthe radiology department, he said.

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