X-ray installed base upgrade due

February 16, 1994

With MRI sales withering under politicoeconomic heat in the U.S.,market prospects for general radiographic and radiography/fluoroscopyequipment are relatively sanguine, according to Jack E. Price,vice president of marketing for Philips Medical Systems

With MRI sales withering under politicoeconomic heat in the U.S.,market prospects for general radiographic and radiography/fluoroscopyequipment are relatively sanguine, according to Jack E. Price,vice president of marketing for Philips Medical Systems NorthAmerica. Signs indicate that radiography and R/F orders were flatlast year but could pick up as the aged U.S. installed base isupgraded.

During the MRI boom years in the late 1980s, hospitals shiftedresources into this emerging modality and away from standard x-rayand R/F equipment. X-ray technology has evolved, however, andmuch existing equipment is fast becoming out of date, he said.

"Radiography is actually one of the areas we have hadthe most new products in," Price said. "There was aperiod over the last five years of underinvestment in radiographyand R/F equipment. Now, we can expect a wave of purchasing tocatch up with some of this lack of investment."

New x-ray products shown by Philips at the RSNA meeting inDecember ranged from a mobile battery-powered x-ray system tothe works-in-progress ThoraVision, a digital chest x-ray systemusing selenium technology. Philips is also selling a new premiummammography unit, the MammoDiagnost 3000, developed in cooperationwith Lorad (SCAN 12/15/93).

The Dutch vendor has a strong market position in vascularimaging and cardiac catheterization, areas that did not feel thesharp downturn that MRI did in 1993.

"We are in a situation where we're not addicted to theprofits--very high profits for some companies--that were derivedfrom the MR business," Price told SCAN. "It's a goodnews, bad news story. We would like to have had more participationin the MRI market, but we were fortunate that our overall companyprofitability wasn't hinged on that part of the business."

Philips is targeting increased MRI sales despite sluggishnessin demand for this imaging modality. One of its most dramaticRSNA introductions was the Gyroscan NT MRI line, offering improvementsin size and accessibility over Philips' previous high-field technology.The NT series, approved for market in the U.S. late last year,comes in both 0.5- and 1.5-tesla configurations (SCAN 12/29/93).

Technology and design are becoming increasingly important factorsto R/F customers, Price said. Now that users see R/F life cyclesas long as 15 years--double what used to be anticipated--theywant equipment that is state-of-the-art at purchase and that willnot become rapidly outdated.

"The age of the design and technology of the equipmentnow has a much higher impact in terms of the purchasing decision,"he said. "Cost effectiveness is a factor, but (customers)don't want to buy a 20-year-old design if they expect to haveit for the next 15 years."

X-ray technology is benefiting from digital imaging developments.Philips offered a version of its EasyVision workstation at theRSNA designed to process, display and print digital image datafrom Philips Computed Radiography products, including ThoraVision.

The vendor also developed a bolus chase reconstruction optionfor EasyVision that reconstructs a series of bolus study imagesacquired with Philips vascular systems and produces a single pelvis-to-toesimage in 12 seconds. The technique uses an algorithm similar tothat found in CT reconstruction, which eliminates artifacts fromthe joining of films.

EasyVision, which was introduced several years ago, has evolvedto handle data from all imaging modalities, Price said. EasyVision'scluster concept offers a more practical digital imaging alternativethan the original fully digital picture archiving and communicationssystems concept behind Philips CommView venture.

"It's an issue of introducing (digital) systems that aremanageable, both from an economic and functional sense--of takingsmall steps that people intuitively understand," he said.

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