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RSNA Day Two: Is PACS Replacement Spending Inevitable?

December 2, 2008
by Mark Hagland
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By today (Tuesday), it was visibly clear that foot traffic was at least slightly down at RSNA 2008, the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), being held Nov. 30-Dec. 5 at Chicago’s
McCormick Place

convention center in downtown Chicago. Still, first impressions can be deceiving. For example, Eric Maurincomme, Ph.D., vice president chief strategy and marketing officer of Agfa HealthCare, the Mortsel, Belgium-based Agfa-Gevaert Group, told Healthcare Informatics that, on the one hand, “We are seeing a little drop in attendance this year, especially among people in the U.S.; nearly half of the visitors to our booth this year are international, which is new.” On the other hand, Maurincomme added, “The depth of the discussions we’ve had this year has increased. People know exactly what they’re talking about” when they come to the booth, he said. “They’re very serious; they know what they’re looking for.”

Maurincomme may be onto something. He added that “As the PACS market becomes saturated, we are seeing it becoming a replacement market.” That means, of course, that the numbers of attendees of past RSNA conferences who might have been drawn to the annual meeting’s exhibit floor in order to check out PACS offerings at a time when PACS was still novel, are no longer being pulled in by novelty. On the other hand, those same past attendees are probably more experienced, and may not need to step onto the RSNA exhibit floor to seriously evaluate their replacement-system purchasing options.

On the other hand, notes of caution are definitely creeping into conversations around PACS and RIS purchasing these days. Scott Grier, president of Preferred Healthcare Consulting, a Sarasota, Fla.-based consulting firm specializing in PACS and RIS consulting, noted this morning that “I just had a conversation with a hospital CIO, and she said, we’re approaching this much as one would in buying a new car. She said ‘We’ve run this core HIS system plus PACS for a number of years, and we’ve had some major changes to do over the next 24 months that were approved. But now we’re concerned that there might be anything from a drop in patient revenues to a drop in reimbursement, to a drop in philanthropic giving. So we’ve taken a portion of what was budgeted and approved to save for the future, as holdover funding.’ So now we’re looking at six or seven years to make a major change, versus every five years,” Grier said, referring to PACS and RIS replacement spending patterns he’s hearing CIOs talking about lately.

Meanwhile, Dedra L. Cantrell, R.N., CIO at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, told HCI that “At Emory, we already are pretty thrifty on the IT side.” Still, she added, “Many of us who adopted PACS very early are in the throes of a migration to another PACS; and a lot of us are on that quest towards integration of workflow, and that will continue over the next few years.” In other words, Cantrell sees inevitable progress forward on the replacement front. And that’s good news for PACS and RIS vendors.

Given all this, Nat Geissel, vice president, imaging sales, for the Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner Corporation, told HCI that “I believe the sales process will be extended; it won’t stop. I believe there will be some delays as people try to figure out what’s going on in the economy,” he added. And we’re seeing situations where hospitals are pushing things out a bit, maybe a quarter, not a lot. They’re a bit more cautious. But we’re certainly not seeing a slowdown in activity.”

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Comments

Anthony,
Yes, by any common definition, delays in spending amount to a slowdown (unless dramatically offset by new business). But it's understandable that vendor executives want to put the best face on this developing situation.

To be fair, I emailed Nat about my comment. Hopefully he will clarify his thoughts here.

With respect to Nat, isn't the fact that buyers are pushing off purchases by a quarter a "slowdown in activity"?

Mark Hagland

Editor-In-Chief

Mark Hagland

@hci_markhagland

www.healthcare-informatics.com/blog/mark-hagland

Mark Hagland became Editor-in-Chief of Healthcare Informatics in January 2010. Prior to that, he...