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New ultrasound device is ‘a revolution’

When Carestream Health Inc. was looking to enter the $6 billion global ultrasound market, it went right to the source for ideas: customers.

While studying the market, Carestream found unmet customer needs that the company believed it could deliver. The result was the Touch Ultrasound System.

It will be available at the end of the year, with initial primary markets in the United States, Canada and Europe. The system will be used in the radiology department and was designed with a small footprint so that it can easily be transported to image patients in other areas such as intensive care, emergency departments, operating rooms, and labor and delivery. 

The primary medical imaging applications range from abdominal organs to cerebrovascular and neonatal. The system’s developers said it is a way to help customers get quicker, more accurate results than are currently offered. Andrew Hartmann, general manager of global X-ray solutions at Carestream, said the company consulted with customers to find out what frustrated them on equipment already in the marketplace and to hear the challenges they faced. Carestream designers took those issues into account when designing its system.

“Ultimately, the operator defines how the system works, not the other way around,” Hartmann said.

Helen Titus, Carestream’s worldwide X-ray solutions marketing director, said continuous customer interaction was a big part of developing the product.

Carestream has successfully used the model in the past, she noted, adding the customer contact reinforced Carestream’s goal of showing the marketplace a new and improved process using the system.

“It wasn’t just tweaking a product; it was more of a revolution,” Titus said.

Spun off from Eastman Kodak Co. in 2007, Carestream is a unit of Toronto-based Onex Corp.

The company spent three years developing the Touch Ultrasound System. A core team of 25 employees worked with suppliers and ultrasound experts outside of the company to develop the device.

Several features stand out, Hartmann said. Unlike most ultrasound scanners on the market, the Carestream Touch Ultrasound has no dials, knobs or levers. Control is by touchscreen, he said, which has etched patterned primary controls that provide tactile feedback. Etched markers make it possible for an operator to monitor an image without looking away.

Carestream used the latest technology—such as the high-speed features of video gaming systems—to build a product that can provide high-quality images in a timely manner, Hartmann said.

Developers also made it lightweight and maneuverable in tight spaces, and they put thought into ergonomics. Commonly used controls are placed conveniently, and the system can be positioned in a way that reduces repetitive stress injuries.

The working prototype of the Carestream Touch Ultrasound System was unveiled last November at the annual Radiological Society of North America conference. The final result is the first in a family of products Carestream plans that will improve the use of ultrasound, company officials said.

“We want customers to be able to get the most out of their investment,” Hartmann said. 

3/20/15 (c) 2015 RBJ Health Care Achievement Awards. Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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