Medical Graphics’ new unit may raise market share

Medical Graphics’ new unit may raise market share

Medical Graphics Corp., St. Paul, Minn., is marketing its new pulmonary function diagnostic system, PF/Dx, to hospitals as well as non-traditional users.

Medical Graphics holds 20% to 25% of the pulmonary function test market, making it the number two player, according to Jeff Kuznia, director of marketing.

SensorMedics Corporation, Yorba Linda, Calif., is currently the market leader. Medical Graphics also competes with Cybermedic Inc., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Warren E. Collins Inc., Braintree, Mass.

The $20 to $25 million market is only growing 4% to 5% a year, but the company hopes to triple the market value for this system by targeting new users, Kuznia said. Lung function tests are typically done in hospitals, but the PF/Dx offers expanded applications that may give it inroads into allergy and asthma clinics and primary care offices.

“That is where the growth will be,” Kuznia predicted. “We’re hoping for a 35% to 40% share of the market in two or three years.” The company hopes to sell at least 80 to 90 systems in the U.S. in the next year, Kuznia said.

The PF/Dx uses a breathing circuit that can be quickly removed for sterilization or disposal, virtually eliminating the chances of cross-contamination, according to Kuznia. The circuit works with a pneumotach, an air flow quantification device, which is also disposable, he said.

“In the past, patients left germs when they breathed on the machines, and the equipment was hard to sterilize,” Kuznia said. “Manufacturers added disposable filters to avoid contamination, but those were not always effective and often affected air flow readings. With our machine, the whole breathing circuit and measuring device can be removed and either sterilized or thrown away, whichever is more cost-effective for the hospital.”

The system was designed with two concerns in mind, according to Kuznia. First, the rise of diseases such as AIDS makes those patients more susceptible to other ailments. Second, patients often experienced allergic reactions or other side effects from the chemicals used to sterilize equipment, and many cleaning solutions are no longer in use, he said.

“It’s a risk/benefit situation for hospitals,” said Kuznia. The system reduces infection and, possibly, lawsuits, he added.

Another benefit is that the system requires a 50ml gas sample, which is one-tenth the size needed for other machines. The smaller sample makes it easier for children and patients with advanced disease to take the test, and therefore increases the patient volume, Kuznia said.

Additionally, the system can measure respiratory muscle strength. Previous tests were unreliable or unavailable, according to Kuznia. Muscle testing reveals respiratory decline or improvement, which allows physicians to better track and treat illnesses, he said.

Finally, the PF/Dx provides objective data for documenting medication or surgery needs, Medical Graphics reported.

At $34,000 for a stationary model and $38,000 for a transportable machine, the system’s base unit is priced “very competitively’ with other systems, Kuznia said.

Disposable filters for other machines typically cost $3 to $7 each. Medical Graphics’ pneumotach/breathing circuit combination may be replaced for under $10, or for $6 if the circuit is sterilized and reused, Kuznia said . (The number of uses depends on the length of time the circuit spends in sterilization solutions.)

Medical Graphics’ direct sales force of 15 is calling on technicians who perform the tests, physicians who use the results, department managers and other purchasing agents, according to Kuznia.

Full-page, four-color ads are running in two spring issues of the Journal of Respiratory Care, the American Review for Respiratory Disease and RT, Kuznia said. The ads will run again in the second half of the year.

Two direct-mail pieces are being tested for a blanket mailing this month. Finally, Medical Graphics’ ongoing telemarketing campaign will include promotion of the PF/Dx, Kuznia added.

The PF/Dx was shown at the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology Convention in March. It will be displayed at the American Thoracic Society meeting in May in Miami Beach, the American College of Chest Physicians meeting in October in Chicago and the American Association for Respiratory Care in December in San Antonio. It will also be presented at a number of smaller state meetings, according to Kuznia.

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