What is an application service provider? Why, that’s easy. An ASP is a company that provides computer services to clients remotely through the Internet or some other network. What, then, is a PACS ASP? Well, that’s … not anywhere as simple to explain.

A huge industry has sprung up around picture archiving and communications. It includes solutions for those facilities that need PACS, but can’t leverage an in-house system, or just don’t want to buy one. For them, the most obvious answer is third-party management that will store and back up their image files, make those files available instantaneously upon demand, and in some cases, provide hardware and/or software. Many such businesses blossomed a few years back, plugging customers into their proprietary software via the Web.

Lately, the increasingly complex programming and vast storage required for such things as multislice CT, 3D processing, cardiac files, Web servers and combined image/text systems, such as RIS/PACS, have put staggering demands on remote Web-based hosting, making it less practical for everyday use. And need we mention the security issues posed by Internet use, or how image management technologies seemingly transform entirely every week?

All of this and more have changed the application service provider market dramatically, causing the acronym ASP to assume many meanings in its short existence.

What’s up with that?
What does ASP really mean today? There are as many answers to that question as there are application service providers.

“Really, ASP in the area of radiology has two applications today,” says Vishal Wanchoo, general manager for imaging and information systems at GE Medical Systems Information Technologies (GEMSIT of Milwaukee). “One is hosting archiving applications off site, both primary archiving and disaster recovery. The other is hosting radiology information systems off site.”

“There are two versions of ASP that we see out in the marketplace,” says Paul Unkel, director of radiology PACS at Philips Medical Systems North America (Bothell, Wash.). “One is the storage service provider [SSP] model, where everything is going to be stored off-site and the customer will get it on demand. The other is what we call a finance model. All that is, basically, is paying for a PAC system, as well as storage, as you use them.”

Please refer to the November 2002 issue for the complete story. For information on article reprints, contact Martin St. Denis