Although there was hardly time to merge exhibitors' booths to reflect recent purchases of one company by another, three industry behemoths seized six days last week at the 86th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago to showcase their newest acquisitions.
Between them, the three top dogs--GE Medical Systems, Waukesha, Wis; Siemens Medical Systems, Erlangen, Germany; and Philips Medical Systems, Best, Netherlands--commanded almost 57,000, or 14%, of the 450,000 square feet of exhibit space. Some 650 other exhibitors shared the remaining space.
In the weeks, even days, before this year's RSNA meeting, announcements of new acquisitions, not to mention product launches, were flying as fast as gamma rays.
Most of about 60,000 spectators from more than 100 countries seemed philosophical, but not overly concerned, about the frenetic industry consolidation going on for several years.
Ethan Halpern, M.D., co-director of the Jefferson Prostate Diagnostic Center at 992-bed Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, was in the Acuson booth, looking over "a very niche-type application" for contrast imaging in prostate cancer diagnosis. "They have a nice transrectal probe with good harmonic imaging," he explained.
A slew of staffers wearing badges identifying them as Siemens employees was the only hint that Acuson, an ultrasound company based in Mountain View, Calif., was acquired by Siemens for about $710 million in mid-November. Halpern said the sale did not concern him.
"I've asked them about five times if they are going to keep the product line the same, and they keep reassuring me they are," Halpern said. He did not want to find out in the middle of a study that a product was unsupported.
With 17,990 square feet of exhibit space (in addition to the Acuson booth), Siemens for the first time shared its city-block-long display with Malvern, Pa.-based Shared Medical Systems, which Siemens acquired for $2.1 billion in July.
For the RSNA forum, Siemens showcased its first product as a company unified with SMS--a marriage of SMS' Radiology Information System (RIS) and Siemens' Picture Archiving Communication Systems (PACS). Simply put, the product is a filmless union of the administrative and clinical sides of radiology.
GE, meanwhile, topped all exhibitors with 20,500 square feet of booth space. That did not include space requisitioned by SMV, an independent nuclear medicine company headquartered in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Buc, France. GE acquired SMV for an undisclosed sum the week before the RSNA meeting.
Philips played a quick game of acquisition catch-up. In the four days before the RSNA event, it announced plans to buy Milpitas, Calif.-based ADAC Laboratories for about $426 million, and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Agilent Technologies' Healthcare Solutions Group for $1.7 billion.
The ADAC acquisition adds nuclear medicine imaging to Philips' stable. HSG's portfolio of more than 400 healthcare products and services adds an array of items that facilitate remote diagnostics.
Philips took 13,600 square feet of booth space in addition to the 4,800 square feet for ATL Ultrasound, a Philips company, the acquisition of which was promoted at the 1999 RSNA meeting.
Company consolidations and broadened product portfolios might be an advantage to hospitals that shop for package discounts, according to Scott Balsters, product manager of diagnostic imaging for Irving, Texas-based Novation, the group purchasing arm of University HealthSystem Consortium and VHA.
"In the long run it is good for me because they will compete more head to head, and I'll have a better idea of what each vendor has to offer," Balsters said.