Q&A: McClennen sees PACS through Amicas colored glasses

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Peter McClennen last week was named president and COO of PACS provider Amicas. Having previously served as global general manager for GE Healthcare's IT PACS business, and director of marketing for PACS for Fujifilm Medical Systems USA Inc., he is now be responsible for all operational aspects of Amicas including sales, marketing, engineering, professional services, and customer support.

Health Imaging & IT sat down with Peter this week in his Boston office to ask about his move to Amicas and the PACS industry today and how he sees it in the future.


Q: What was the impetus behind your decision to come to Amicas?

I think that Amicas is extremely well positioned in the future to deliver great things. This is the best PACS product, the best set of core engineering with passionate people who really understand this domain and are making world-class products.

In the imaging center space, Amicas is very well positioned to continue to improve our technology and deliver PACS into that space using the model that empowers our customers connected to our financial solutions for a total turn-key situation.


Q: You have stated that the next wave of growth in the IT and PACS marketplace will come from community hospitals and imaging centers. How will Amicas capitalize on this growth potential?

If we start with the imaging centers, which is where a tremendous amount of growth is in the imaging industry as people move to the outpatient segment to have CTs, MRIs, x-rays and ultrasounds. The imaging center market is a distinctly different market than the hospital market, and Amicas' strength is our financial systems that we run within imaging centers. In the roughly 2,000 imaging centers in the U.S., 1,200 of them use Amicas' financial systems or billing systems.

We've also got RIS [radiology information system] targeted specifically for imaging centers and our Amicas Vision Series PACS features functionally that's designed just for imaging centers, both for distributed imaging centers where you have a chain of imaging centers and also large, centralized imaging centers. So if you look at the entire imaging center space, the requirements of that market are very different from the hospital market in that you need a combination of the billing system, RIS and PACS. And the PACS must be able to function in a distributed high-production environment.

As you move into the community hospitals, we have a relationship with MediTech Inc. which is the largest HIS (hospital information system) and RIS provider within a hospital space. Within the community market, they have about 1,000 customers, and we've done a very tight integration with MediTech that gives us the ability to offer functionality levels that other systems do not currently offer.

The highest level of the market is the most penetrated, such as the very large hospital with 400 beds and academic medical centers. Studies indicate that that market is anywhere from 70 to 90 percent penetrated, whereas the sub-300 bed hospital and imaging center market is penetrated closer to 20 percent. So we're very well-positioned in those two levels of the market -- the smaller hospitals, community hospitals and imaging centers, both from a product suite to an integration with existing systems.


Q: How else do you define the IT and PACS market space?

Procedures continue to drift into the ambulatory space for convenience and for productivity, so imaging centers continue to grow and community hospitals continue to acquire newer technology. Technologies such as multislice CT and MRI are driving the need for imaging IT solutions such as PACS. So, that will continue to grow.

Other [market research] studies [like the Gartner study] indicate that industrial nations generally will be PACS deployed by 2008. That's a significant number when you consider the low penetration rate in community hospitals. But I would say that based on my experience on the commercial side, in the last five years that the adoption rate for PACS has been accelerating faster than the studies have indicated, from a unit perspective. Many studies say that the PACS market is growing at 10 percent from a revenue perspective but about 18 percent from a unit perspective. I would actually accelerate that from a unit perspective and say that it's about 25 to 30 percent.


Q: Looking beyond the immediate growth area, where do you see Amicas in five years?

Amicas will have expanded beyond that core functionality of imaging to real workflow within the department. It's true workflow that really isn't seen in any other product. And it's also communication; communication out. And if you think of us moving forward to 2010, PACS then will really be a system that is driving workflow efficiencies and maximizing capital investment in those modalities, and real-time communications to referring physicians so they have the exact right information at the right time.


Q: Your Vision Series family of products has been your key product offering. Do you care to tip us off on any hot new Amicas products that are in the pipe line?

Sure, absolutely. One product that is currently in development is called Vision Reach. Vision Reach is a product which can be used in the acute or the ambulatory space and is being designed to enhance communications. And it's a product design that allows you to connect to your existing IT infrastructure and maximize its effectiveness. As an example, it would allow you to have a legacy RIS, install Vision PACS with Vision Reach - which will become your communication center for results and images to extend out beyond the hospital. What it would do, based on events such as positive results or triggered results is send an email with the images and the reports directly to the referring physicians. The physicians now would have their own "air traffic control system" where they could see all of their patients and all of their statuses by viewing images and reports, and communicate right back to the radiologist.


Q: Earlier this year, Amicas sold its medical division (under the banner of VitalWorks Inc.) to Cerner Corp. Are there any remnants of VitalWorks that are still part of the Amicas' portfolio?

The remnants are the financial systems that had grown up as individual systems and we brought them all together (now called Vision Series Financials). The financial sector is segmented into two different areas, so you have complete outsourced billing organizations that bill for physicians and we provide software and services to those organizations. Those are multi-specialty, not just radiology. And then there are the imaging centers that do their own billing, and may bill for the physician services that are rendered at the hospital. So, those are generally the legacy products and we continue to invest in them and enhance them.


Q: What are the core differences between Amicas and its top competitors?

AMICAS' tag line is 'Tomorrow's Vision Today' and what really attracted me to Amicas, specifically with the PACS, is that it does things that no other PACS does. One specific area is in real-time radiology. It's got functionality that monitors all of the statuses and changes within a radiology department, and literally is like an air traffic control system for the imaging department. The imaging department is a very transactional department where hundreds of patients can be seen in a day, and the tracking of all those patients and moving the patients through the various modalities, statuses and reading steps is very important. What the Amicas Vision PACS has, called RealTime Worklist, is literally a heads-up display color-coded to show you the movement of patients through the department.


Q: Are you platform-agnostic?

Completely. Basically this system is a software solution that can be loaded on nearly any hardware. It's all Windows-based, so Dell, HP, IBM, and Gateway or any storage that you may choose. It's pretty flexible.