Signify Premium Insight: Siemens Healthineers makes its digital intentions clear at RSNA 2020

Published: December 10, 2020

Co-authored by Steve Holloway

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In addition to the MRI systems, mobile C arms and other hardware being shown off virtually by Siemens Healthineers at RSNA, the firm also revealed its new Syngo Carbon software environment. 

According to Siemens, the platform, which is still currently under development, will allow for enterprise-wide image interpretation and reporting, pulling together its broad imaging informatics portfolioThe new platform will enable data from different departments to be pulled out and integrated into a unified environment in a bid to simplify workflows and make it easier for different clinical areas to work together. Siemens adds that Syngo Carbon, which will incorporate existing technologies and existing Syngo solutions, will also facilitate the automated processing of reports, and is “the starting point for a company-wide system”. 

Vendor Impact 

  • Siemens signals its commitment to creating a comprehensive Imaging IT platform, supporting enterprise imaging strategies increasingly adopted by users. 
  • The addition of an all-encompassing imaging informatics solution to its portfolio will allow Siemens to tap providers for bigger, more comprehensive managed service deals. 
  • The ongoing shift towards large, centralised platforms from large healthcare technology vendors could potentially lead smaller specialist vendors to be squeezed out. However, we do expect the integration of all Siemens applications to take a number of years, while other leading healthcare technology peers undergoing similar integrations are also taking a long time. 

Market Impact 

  • Siemens decision to pursue a broader “platform” approach to informatics signals the growing importance of centralised image and diagnostic content management to healthcare providers and growing momentum for products that can support enterprise imaging.
  • Demand for enterprise imaging is gaining momentum, though technical integration and interoperability remains one of the key barriers to adoption. 
  • There is an accelerating shift towards the convergence of applications and diagnostic tools towards centralised platforms, in part tied to the movement of procurement decision-making from radiology departments into the broader enterprise (CIO, CMIO). Vendors will therefore need modular and adaptable platforms as the context and approach towards enterprise imaging is different in each market and care setting. 

The Signify View 

Siemens’ Syngo Carbon announcement is an unequivocal statement of intent from Siemens. Until now, the vendor’s limited focus towards enterprise imaging led to some speculation that it was gradually abandoning the core imaging informatics space. As such, the company had fallen by the wayside somewhat compared to competitors when it came to large-scale medical imaging informatics tenders, especially those focused on enterprise imaging. However, this announcement clearly signifies that the firm intends for an integrated imaging IT platform to act as a foundation of its digital commercial offering in the coming years.

This is in contrast to the present state of Siemens’ product range, which includes market leading diagnostic applications and various data management and workflow software components. Interoperability between these disparate solutions is limited and specific to different markets. For example, in Austria, through a partnership with software company ITH, Siemens offers a VNA solution, yet in the US the firm has previously partnered with NTT Data for data management capability. It also has a workflow solution in the form of its teamplay product-set, bolstered by the acquisition of Medicalis, a legacy PACS in syngo.plazawhile advanced visualisation is handled by the strong syngo.via offering. The firm has also recently added strong new products in the form of AI-Rad Companion and syngo Virtual Cockpit, meeting demand in two emerging growth sectors of the market. 

These compartmentalised solutions may work well individually, but as workflow efficiencies and interdepartmental compatibility become more important to providers, Siemens needs to join these, and other, elements together. This is the role Syngo Carbon will take on.  

The foundation of Syngo Carbon is based on a centralised data management and workflow solution, essentially taking the ITH VNA and teamplay offerings and “levelling up” their interoperability competencies and futureproofing for integration with broader systems and non-DICOM data, such as the use of FHIR standards. Over the coming years, Siemens will then ensure all new upgrades and core product modules link via the Syngo Carbon platform, creating a broad, interoperable imaging informatics solution. Given Siemens’ recent announcement of the acquisition of Varian (see our analysis here), no doubt longer-term the important oncology IT assets of Varian will also become part of this integration effort.   

Integration of IT across multiple clinical disciplines is complex, not only for vendors, but also for healthcare providersImaging IT purchases have traditionally been led by radiology departments. However, as the platforms encompass greater numbers of clinical areas, more and more hospital departments, from interventional cardiology to digital pathology, procurement becomes significantly more complex and deals take longer to complete. This complexity means that the enterprise imaging market has, to date, progressed slowly, despite the readiness of some vendors to offer imaging IT solutions capable of supporting enterprise imaging strategies. As such, even though Siemens has been somewhat behind the curve compared to some of its competition in this area, the delay may not have damaged its prospects longterm. In some markets (Northern Europe, USA, Oceania), where enterprise imaging has been a strong driver for system replacement and imaging IT consolidation, re-penetrating the core imaging IT market will be an uphill struggle, especially given the length of contracting cycles today. However, this only accounts for a small proportion of the worldwide market. In most other marketsdespite its lateness, the fact that potential customers aren’t yet committed to long-term enterprise imaging strategies with other vendorsmeans that Siemens hasn’t missed its chance.  

Strategic Significance 

Furthermore, the addition of a comprehensive enterprise imaging platform to Siemens portfolio also plays into its wider strategy of forging long-term, holistic partnerships with providers and health networks. As detailed in the recent Premium Insight, The Value of Partnerships in Siemens Fourth Quarter, the importance of imaging hardware, software, service and broader “solutions” are becoming more important in securing larger deals. Siemens hopes Syngo Carbon will deliver in this regard, not only serving as the basis of its digital platform, but one which improves operational efficiency for providers, and, in tying together an array of disparate elements, ensures Siemens remains one of the few vendors that has the breadth to be able to offer providers totally comprehensive deals across diagnostic imaging and enterprise imaging. 

As the platform that will connect the spectrum of Siemens’s software products, the ultimate success of Syngo Carbon will be measured in its ability to use usefully incorporate future modules, both from within Siemens, but also those that are collected through acquisitions, such as those gained through the Varian deal. Furthermore, it will also be a test to see if the firm can leverage strong positions in imaging modality hardware and advanced visualisation as entry points for enterprise imaging in markets where enterprise imaging adoption has been gathering pace already.   

Siemens’ RSNA announcement removes any doubt about the company’s commitment to the enterprise imaging space. Despite its comparatively slow start, its eventual aspirations are no lesser than its competitors. Successfully integrating its individual packages into a comprehensive platform will be a significant challenge, as it has been and will continue to be for other vendors. But, for Siemens to realise its target of forming high value, longterm partnerships with providers for comprehensive imaging capabilitiesit is a challenge the German vendor must rise to.