Vendors keep mum on possible entree into cardiac MR imaging

April 6, 1994

Slumping market makes any new venture riskySpeculation about apossible foray by echocardiography market leader Hewlett-Packardinto cardiac MRI rose a notch above the rumor level last monthwith HP's hiring of a senior MRI marketing executive

Slumping market makes any new venture risky

Speculation about apossible foray by echocardiography market leader Hewlett-Packardinto cardiac MRI rose a notch above the rumor level last monthwith HP's hiring of a senior MRI marketing executive away fromPicker International. Talk was inflamed by comments from anotherMRI vendor, Siemens, at a formal presentation during the Societyof Magnetic Resonance conference in Dallas.

Marcelo G. Lima, former MRI marketing manager for Picker International,joined HP last month as marketing support manager for Hewlett-PackardAdvanced Imaging Systems. Linda M. Eastwood was appointed actingMR marketing manager at Picker following Lima's departure. Eastwoodwas previously product manager for high-field systems.

HP managers were present at the SMR presentation by SiemensMRI group manager Thomas Miller, during which he showed slidesand briefly mentioned the alleged HP project to develop a cardiacMRI system (see story, page 5). The HP executives were amusedby Miller's comments, said Albert S. Kyle, general manager ofimaging systems for Hewlett-Packard Medical Products Group inAndover, MA. Kyle would not comment on the speculation.

Other, more informal talks at the SMR conference centered aroundHP's partnership with Philips Medical Systems in cardiac catheterizationand ultrasound development -- and a possible expansion of thiscooperation into MRI. Philips, a major radiology-focused MRI vendor,would be well positioned to combine its technology with HP's cardiologycustomer base.

Philips is pursuing cardiac applications of its existing MRIproduct line. The short bores on Philips' compact NT MRI systems,introduced at the 1993 Radiological Society of North America meeting,allowed for the inclusion of a cardiac stress testing feature(SCAN 12/29/93). This feature includes a bicycle ergometer thatcan be operated by the patient while the top half of the bodyis being scanned. The stress system varies pressure to maintaina desired heartbeat.

Both Philips and HP acknowledge that future products will likelycome out of their technical and marketing partnership, but bothshy away from discussing potential products or applications. Philipswas not available for comment regarding a possible cardiac MRventure with HP.

HP is known for its measured pace in new product development.This has been particularly true when the product involved expansionof HP's existing user base; for instance, broadening from purecardiac ultrasound into vascular imaging (SCAN 12/28/88).

Given market uncertainties in the U.S. and depressed demandfor MRI, such caution regarding cardiac MRI would be well founded.If the boundaries between physician specialties are blurred withina revamped national health-care system, hospital administratorsmay not be eager to purchase expensive capital equipment dedicatedto one discipline.