The 2007 PACSman Awards: Great expectations By Michael J. Cannavo November 29, 2007
CHICAGO - Most who know me or have followed my musings over the past few decades know I am somewhat of a cynic when it comes to looking at announcements from companies. With apologies to Charles Dickens, I come to RSNA with no expectations, let alone "Great Expectations."
If you call something "revolutionary," I expect nothing less than to see Che Guevara dressed out in full combat fatigues doing the demo. "New and improved" means the product is much better than before, not just a different variant of the same tired product.
If you claim you are No. 1, as so many at this week's show did, make sure you can back it up or that it's not based on a survey done in years past. And when asked about it, don't play "Fred and Ginger" and dance around it by saying "Well, we feel we are No. 1 because...." As the great philosopher Yogi Berra used to say, "You is or you ain't," and in this case you ain't.
This has led to me to adopt the eighth beatitude as my personal mantra: "Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed."
In fairness, how can what has become a commodity marketplace for PACS provide something new? The hardware is almost all the same (Dell or HP), the software all pretty much offers the same feature set with only the look and feel being different, the marketing is the same (weak and uncreative), and the buyers pretty much remain the same (for the most part, clueless).
Buyers are the ones who shock me the most, especially second-time buyers. The word "insanity" is defined as doing the same thing over again and expecting the outcome to be different, yet so many come looking for a replacement PACS using updated versions of their DIN-PACS-style requests for proposal (RFPs) that didn't work in helping them select the right fit for them the first time. I keep waiting for Dr. Phil to peek around the corner any minute to ask the question I love to hear him say, "So, how's that working for you?" -- knowing what the answer is already.
Lots of other insanity were shown and some of it had nothing to do with PACS. Were I a radiologist, I would be very leery of the impact teleradiology services is having on the industry, especially those from offshore service providers. The looming arrival of teleradiology service providers based in India would lead me to set up my own "countdown to retirement" clock, as my good friend the Dalai Lama of PACS has done.
While the current climate is such that U.S.-based radiologists may be safe in the near term, the long-term picture is less than pretty. Declining revenues for hospitals and competition for business will no doubt lead to many hospital administrators looking both near and far at available options for radiologic interpretations.
If the American College of Radiology (ACR) doesn't step in soon and act quickly, there will be a bloodbath in our industry that makes the Civil War look like a minor skirmish between two siblings. Even worse, at least two vendors have encouraged the battleground by establishing offshore teleradiology services, or, imagine this, selling modalities to self-referrers, then directing business to a particular radiology reading service, bypassing the objections of local radiologists.
I was also amazed by how few vendors are in the data archiving and data migration marketplace, with fewer vendors in this market this year than last. With such an incredibly fertile area for growth, you have to wonder why vendors haven't addressed it yet. Maybe they are too busy trying to set up offshore teleradiology services …
Most of the marketing this year was run-of-the-mill but still left me plenty of fodder for PACSman awards, with one exception -- this year's PACSman Award winner is for exceptionally good marketing instead of exceptionally bad, as it has been the trend previous years. While an anomaly in a market filled with bad marketing, I would be remiss to not cite this company's efforts to change this cynic into believing that there is indeed hope in a market that needs it so desperately.
And now, without further ado, I present for your consideration the 2007 PACSman Awards:
The "Reverend Benn Hinn" HEAL!!! Award
This goes to the company that handed out blue eyeglass cleaners in clear pouches that looked suspiciously like the blue prayer clothes you get for making a "love offering" of $19.95 or more to the ministry. You apply water from the River Jordan to the cloth (just $9.95 extra, and no relation to Michael either), and put it on your forehead while touching the television as Benny prays with you about your invocations. I saw a lot of PACS sales reps scooping these up ("Oh Lord, please help me make my numbers this quarter.") and a few customers as well who seemed completely lost. The Dalai Lama of PACS also mentioned they would make a great emergency yarmulke as well so.
The "Midol" Award
To companies that continue to use initials to describe their clinical systems, markets, or applications without considering the alternate meanings. First we had to deal with the acronym for diagnostic imaging centers, then archive storage systems, followed by reusable image media, and now we get to deal with practice management systems. Let's forget abbreviations for now on, as long as we agree on my buddy the Dalai's definition that PACS stands for pain and constant suffering.
The "Godfather" Award
To the company that showed a picture of a horse's head in its booth. I was looking for the tag line "We're going to make you an offer you can't refuse" until I realized it was showing the horse in relation to veterinary applications of the product. The horse, named Ralphie (wasn't he the kid who almost put out his eye asking for a Red Ryder BB gun?), looked happy enough in the photo, but if you really want to capture the spirit of RSNA, they should have shown Ralphie's "other half" instead.
The "Just Like Being Married" Award
To the companies that handed out "suggestive" marketing collateral, then never followed up on their promises. The only "hooking up" I do these days is the DVD player to the television so I can watch a movie while eating Orville Redenbacher Movie Theatre buttered popcorn with a Diet Coke (it's all about balance). As to the question "Am I asking for it?" rest assured I gave up begging years ago …
and have the cancelled checks to prove it.
The "2007 Product Roadmap" Award
To the leading PACS vendor that named its newest addition with the incredibly savvy marketing name "IW." That would be an improvement over DW (doesn't work) and AW (almost works), so IW (it works) fits.
The same top PACS company also needs to hand out portable lint rollers next year. The vendor's brand-new plush carpet shed more than a Cheshire cat and had me brushing my pants off more than once. Martha Stewart would not be amused.
The "Long and Matured Experience" Award
To all the international companies whose mangled translations never cease to bring a smile to my face.
The "Cost-Effective Marketing" Award
To the company that, instead of opting for a booth at RSNA, instead strategically placed its literature on tables next to seats where people were sitting down. While literature isn't cheap, it sure beats booth space.
The "America, She Is a Berry Good Country" Award
To the company that offered free Osiris software bundled in its product -- then charged for it.
The "Best Use of the Words 'Handy Dandy' " Award
To the company that used them to describe its DICOM toolkit.
The "Back to the Future" Award
To the teleradiology provider that considers the use of e-mail, Web, and other technologies part of the future. Last time I checked, they were a part of the present.
The "1984" Award
To the organization that elected to put RFID tags on RSNA badges. I think most people could tell you which booths get the most traffic without having to resort to RFID badges to find out. Look for booth space costs to start being defined by high-traffic locations in upcoming years.
The "World Wrestling Federation" Award
For best use of a chain-link fence to the company that had its conference room area completely enclosed in mesh link. Conversely, one other company had the conference room encased in glass, making it look like one big fish bowl. Last time I checked, customers want a conference to be private and secure …
and not have to look out for Hulk Hogan saying hello.
The "Godzilla" Award
To the PACS vendor whose cheaply made video made those Japanese Godzilla knockoffs look good. When the good guy pulled out his gun to shoot the pipe-wielding bad guy (good odds, huh?) I was waiting for him to point the gun at his own head instead of at the bad guy and put himself out of misery.
The "Good, Better, Bester" Award
To the company that actually named its product MRBester.
The "Howard Hughes Cleanophobia" Award
To the company that handed out 2-oz bottles of hand sanitizer. I like clean hands as much as the next guy, but did we really need 2-oz worth?
The "Free Lunch" Award
Whoever said there is no such thing as a free lunch never went by the booth where they were indeed handing out cards for a free lunch … and a free T-shirt to boot. All you had to do is spend one hour of your time listening to a promo on designing versus outsourcing software.
The "Wal-Mart" Award
To all the Indian companies that are "just here to help." There is more software development being done in India than anyone cares to acknowledge. Customers demand better, cheaper, and faster, yet when it gets outsourced overseas we complain about how it's impacting U.S. jobs. For now, radiology interpretations are reasonably safe, but I give it two years at the most before overseas competition starts to hit home in a big way.
The PACSman Award
This year's PACSman Award winner is a dramatic departure from the normal PACSman Awards. It is being given to a company with exceptionally good marketing instead of exceptionally bad.
In over two decades of attending RSNA's I've never seen a company whose marketing was so on target, so powerful, and so focused than that of mammography systems provider Hologic of Bedford, MA. I sat in awe watching its videos on the big screen -- each one more powerful that the next.
The videos were such a dramatic departure from typical videos that say how great a company or products are. Instead they focused on the products and solutions offered and people whose lives were impacted. I walked away educated, never realizing that one in eight women will be affected by breast cancer in her lifetime. This company embodies a belief that I have tried to live by and was so clearly stated in their video as well: "When you believe in something … you are something."
It's all about believing in what you do -- kudos to Hologic, winner of the 2007 PACSman Award!!!
Michael J. Cannavo is a leading PACS consultant and has authored nearly 300 articles on PACS technology in the past 16 years. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AuntMinnie.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular vendor, analyst, industry consultant, or consulting group. Rather, they should be taken as the personal observations of a guy who has, by his own account, been in this industry way too long.