Vendors move to farm out PACS installations

May 21, 2001

Once a hospital has purchased a PACS and the boxes arrive, someone has to put the pieces together. Usually it's the vendor, but just under the PACS radar, another trend is developing. "Leading PACS suppliers are starting to outsource installation of

Once a hospital has purchased a PACS and the boxes arrive, someone has to put the pieces together. Usually it's the vendor, but just under the PACS radar, another trend is developing.

"Leading PACS suppliers are starting to outsource installation of their equipment," said Douglas Orr, president of J&M Group, a PACS consulting firm in Connecticut. "They lay off the most important task onto some other organization. The assembly and installation of all the components is the critical task in a PACS."

Siemens is one major PACS vendor now outsourcing installations of large-scale PACS, although the company hasn't lost sight of the importance of the step.

"We have certain certified partners, whom we choose carefully, who install networking infrastructure and PC hardware," said Rik Primo, director of new business development for Siemens. "Siemens, however, provides the software installation and system integration."

Primo said the advantage of this arrangement to Siemens is high-quality work performed by skilled network and PC technicians. The benefit to customers is faster installations. Siemens assumes the overall responsibility, which tends to reduce fingerpointing.

The practice promotes a wider range of PACS suppliers, which in turn creates a competitive environment resulting in better service and prices, said Gary Reed, a consultant with Integration Resources. Hospitals will have greater opportunity to select a vendor that has multiple clinical information systems and a single source for IS services.

"Many third-party PACS suppliers are offering PACS on a usage basis with the option to switch suppliers, which will keep PACS suppliers honest and on their toes," Reed said.

The trend is a response to a shortage of qualified people to support PACS market demands, Reed said. A PACS vendor who is a software-only supplier will attain greater profit margins when unburdened of the massive infrastructure required to deliver PACS services, he said.

Other industry experts believe a relationship with a third-party firm can provide a jump start for a PACS project, although hospitals should remember this is not just about implementing equipment.

"Too often, vendors forget that PACS impacts much more than just the radiology department," said Denise Chaney of SAIC Health Care Consulting. "The coordination required to successfully implement a system to meet broader institutional needs requires a deeper understanding and multidepartment working relationship with each specific organization."

The practice brings up other issues. Local support from the third party might not be up to the standards of the software supplier, affecting the performance of the PACS and reflecting negatively on the product, Reed said. The vendor may regret the resulting arms-length relationship with end users, which might affect future product introductions, service contracts, and revenues.