Smiths Medical MD (St. Paul, Minnesota) has been awarded a three-year contract by Premier Purchasing Partners (San Diego) to offer the new Smiths Medical Piccolo Ultrasound System to its nearly 1,500 hospital and healthcare system members in the U.S.

The new Piccolo ultrasound system was designed for ultrasound guidance to assist in the placement of needles and catheters in peripheral vascular systems. The system provides a combination of features designed to work together to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the placement of peripherally inserted catheters.

Unique to the Piccolo system are customizable settings for each user, state-of-the-art compact design, and a battery life of up to three hours on a single charge. In addition, the Piccolo system’s high image quality, ease of use, and 1.6 cm depth setting and zoom feature will assist clinicians in performing more accurate vascular access procedures. The system also has the ability to store and download images to a video printer or PC for reimbursement documentation or maintenance of patient records.

Smiths Medical is the exclusive distributor of the Piccolo ultrasound system for the vascular access market in the U.S. and Canada. It has a four-year distribution partnership with Esaote (Genoa, Italy) a manufacturer of medical diagnostic ultrasound equipment.

Also signing a three-year agreement with Premier Purchasing Partners was Biologic Systems (Mundelein, Illinois), a designer and marketer of computerized medical electrodiagnostic equipment and disposables. Under the agreement, Biologic will offer sleep diagnostics equipment, services and accessories to Premier’s affiliated hospital and healthcare systems.

Commenting on the agreement, Roderick Johnson, president and chief operating officer of Bio-logic, said, “It is estimated by Frost & Sullivan [Palo Alto, California], a leading market consulting firm, that approximately 44 million people in the U.S. have a sleep disorder, impacting their quality of life and at times posing a hazard to their health and the safety of others, and that 30 million of those affected remain untested.”

He said that people of all ages can be affected, “and most are unaware that they have a sleep disorder, and many of those who are aware have in the past chosen not to seek the help they need.”

Noting that there is “a growing awareness of sleep apnea monitoring on the part of both individuals and clinicians as a result of our aging and overweight population and studies linking hypertension to sleep apnea,” Johnson said that for the period through 2011, Frost & Sullivan projects double-digit growth in the sleep service provider market, as well as a 13% increase in the number of sleep studies performed annually.

Biologic develops computer-based electrodiagnostic systems and related disposables for use by hospitals, clinics, school districts, universities and physicians. The systems conduct tests that are typically used by medical practitioners to aid in the diagnosis of certain neurological disorders, brain disorders and tumors and sensory disorders, including audiological and hearing screening and diagnosis.

GE Healthcare (Waukesha, Wisconsin) reported that it has begun go-live implementation of a five-year agreement with Orlando Regional Healthcare System (Orlando, Florida). Under the agreement, GE has installed Centricity PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications System) products in the eight-hospital network based in Orlando.

The technology is designed to transition the hospital network from traditional radiology X-ray films to digital facilities with electronic storage capacity for patient information. Doctors at any location within the system can access images and X-ray reports within seconds. The transition from film, expected to be complete by summer of 2005, is a major step toward improved accessibility and availability to critical patient medical information, while continuing toward a system-wide paperless electronic medical record, the company said.

Orlando Regional Healthcare, a 1,652-bed private, not-for-profit organization was established in 1918. The hospital system serves more than 640,000 Central Florida residents and 4,500 international patients annually.

GE Healthcare also reported the acquisition by North Shore University Hospital (Manhasset, New York) of GE’s new 64-slice LightSpeed Volume CT (VCT) system. It is the only one of its kind in the Northeast used exclusively to diagnose heart disease, the company said.

The new system, purchased at a cost of $1.7 million, provides North Shore doctors with a powerful new tool for performing new and enhanced procedures such as CT angiography and obtaining the information they need to diagnose cardiovascular disease.

The LightSpeed VCT enables doctors to capture images of a beating heart in just five heart beats (about five seconds), half the amount of time required by other competing CT systems.

In other grants/contracts news:

• Ascension Orthopedics (Austin, Texas) reported that it has signed an exclusive agreement with Polyganics (Groningen, the Netherlands) for the U.S. distribution of Neurolac, Polyganics’ resorbable nerve tube. The agreement includes all sizes of the nerve tube and applies to all extremity applications.

The Neurolac nerve tube is used to aid in the healing of severed nerves due to traumatic injury. Neurolac acts as a conduit to provide a pathway for regenerating axons. Neurolac is made from a polylactide-co-caprolactone material that is resorbable. Another unique feature of the material is that it is clear, thus providing the surgeon with greater visibility when performing this delicate surgery.

“Ascension’s relationship with hand surgeons provides us with an effective channel into the U.S. market,” said Jan Nieuwenhuis, CEO of Polyganics.

The company estimates the market for nerve tubes in the U.S. to be $30 million annually.

Ascension said it intends to launch the product in 3Q05. Ascension is focused on the manufacture and distribution of orthopedic devices for the hand, upper extremity and foot.

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