Who do you know wants to buy a PACS?

January 23, 2002

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.comErnie Von Schledorn is an icon in Wisconsin. Thirty years ago he tapped into the psyche of this state with his slogan "Who do you

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.com

Ernie Von Schledorn is an icon in Wisconsin. Thirty years ago he tapped into the psyche of this state with his slogan "Who do you know wants to buy a car?" Ernie said it like our grandfathers used to, with a hint of a German accent and a smile. Some people, like a few we know to the south, might find it hokey. But we loved Ernie. We all did Ernie impressions, like "Who do you know wants to buy a beer?" or "Who do you know wants to beat the Bears?" One adventurous soul even wrote Ernie's phrase in white paint across a train trestle that spanned my hometown river. To this day, you can read it.

The PACS industry needs somebody like Ernie. But not now. First, hospitals and clinics have to embrace the concept of PACS. And so far that hasn't happened.

Ernie succeeded with his simple slogan because the U.S. was already in love with cars. Cars transformed this nation. Thanks to cars we can live miles away from our jobs, shop where we want, connect with our friends, enjoy the arts, take vacations from one end of the country to the other. Cars are what the U.S. is all about-freedom.

PACS is much the same on a professional level. PACS affords mobility. It links far-flung facilities. It brings physicians together, regardless of physical distances. PACS is as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. But hospitals aren't getting it.

The problem is they don't feel it. The people who could benefit from PACS are not incorporating this technology into their lives because it is alien to the way they practice medicine. To be successful, PACS must reflect the way medicine is done-not how engineers think it should be done. We've got to resist the urge to remake medicine in technology's image.

Look at the Edsel. Here was a monumental failure, an overengineered white elephant (and an ugly one to boot). The Edsel is a testament to corporate presumption and disregard for market realities, said automotive historian Anthony Young.

"In a free market economy, it is the car-buying public, not the manufacturer, that determines the success or failure of an automobile," he said.

The challenge for PACS companies today is not to reengineer the process of medicine to make it more efficient and effective or to build those algorithms into products. The challenge is to find out what customers want-truly want-and build products to match.

Then they can call Ernie.