By Jenny Lower
Carestream has announced plans to complement its line of digital radiography (DR) systems by expanding into the ultrasound market. The company will debut its new Touch ultrasound system, the first in the forthcoming Touch family of systems, at this year’s annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Andrew J. Hartmann, general manager of global X-ray solutions for Carestream, said the move comes at a time when the company is “looking to grow its footprint.” Ultrasound represents one of the few growing modalities in imaging; along with digital X-ray, it’s also the largest, with some 50 companies competing for market share. Since Carestream already holds the dominant position in DR, Hartmann says, moving into new territory makes sense.
“Ultrasound is a logical fit. It means we can capitalize on our sales force, our service infrastructure, and our global reach,” he said.
According to Hartmann, what distinguishes the top players in the ultrasound space is their ability not only to develop a top product, but to distribute and service it. “What Carestream clearly brings to the table is an extensive network of sales and service,” he said. “We sell and distribute all over the world, and we lead in the X-ray market space. Having that infrastructure in place will help us position this.”
The company held workshops during the development process to determine its customers’ pain points with their current systems and gather feedback on desired features, including imaging performance and ergonomic design. Since most customers won’t be eliminating their other ultrasound systems after a single purchase, it was critical that the Touch fit in with a hospital’s existing workflow and systems.
“We’ve taken our time to pull this together,” Hartmann said. “We were able to start with a clean slate and look at what’s challenging in departments from a use-of-ultrasound perspective, what are the features and functionalities people are looking for.”
One of the Touch’s key features is its all-touch control panel. In addition to a soft user interface, primary controls etched into the glass help users quickly locate key functions without looking away from the display monitor. Other features include a boot-up time of 18 seconds, a swipe-and-go badge feature to speed secure login, and “smart connect” transducer technology to enable one-touch selection of the preferred transducer. Future Touch systems, expected to roll out over the next 2 or 3 years, will build on the same internal architecture, ensuring that technicians won’t have to be retrained each time Carestream releases a new ultrasound system.
With its move into the ultrasound space, Carestream is hoping to develop a system that becomes as popular as the company’s DRX-Revolution mobile X-ray system. Prior to that product’s emergence in the mobile DR space, “‘One might have looked at that market and said, ‘Is there room for another entry?’” said Helen Titus, worldwide X-ray solutions marketing director for Carestream. “But because the design that we created was very innovative and answered the challenges techs were facing, there indeed was room, and we’ve been able to capture quite a large market share.”
“I think the market is looking for another player to come in and shake things up a little bit,” Hartmann said.
The Touch ultrasound will be on display at the Carestream booth at RSNA. The first units are expected to ship in the third quarter of 2015.