Blogs and corporate communications

Great example of how blogs can effect corporate reputation of GE within the US$100bn medical imaging market from US radiologist blogger Doctor Dalai. I was aware of this story when it happend, and was in communication with both parties, so it’s been very instructive for me too.

The Story According To GE

Our local GE rep and an applications specialist came to visit today. They ran me through a demo of the GE AW 4.4 Volume Share, especially as it will be used with our nascient Coronary CT arteriography (CCTA) program. While 4.4 retains some of the quirks of the earlier versions, it does show some very significant improvements, with some very nice implementations of automation. The images presented were spectacular, having come from a GE VCT 64 slice scanner. They did process a scan from another company’s scanner, and the vascular detection center-line placement didn’t go quite as smoothly, but it was relatively easy to tweak it into complacency.

At the moment, there is a limited remote control option. This allows three limited simultaneous access sessions, and one “virtual AW” session, which gives full control of the AW, but only if no one is using the workstation itself. Late this year, there may be a TeraRecon-style client-server product, but there are no details as yet.

The conversation turned to the Hawkeye, the SPECT/(limited)CT device. The nuclear rep wasn’t along for the ride today, but he did want me to know that diagnostic CT images from our 64-slice VCT could be grafted onto a Hawkeye study. Which sort of defeats the usefulness having a CT in your SPECT camera beyond attenuation-correction only. I related our pending purchase of the Symbia, but I did reassure them that when GE comes out with a diagnostic CT version, we would certainly consider it.

At this point, our rep began a rather surprising discussion, the GE side of my little unpleasantness from four months ago. It seems that there had been considerable internal pressure to get to the bottom of the episode, and it turns out to be rather more complicated than I would have thought. This was probably a rather difficult conversation for our rep, and I am very impressed with him for coming forward, and I am grateful to finally hear something from GE on the topic.

The problem originated with my post comparing the 2D/3D GE Discovery PET/CT with BGO crystals to the 3D Siemens Biograph 16 with LSO crystals. Frankly, it was one of my most carefully written and researched pieces, and I was quite proud of it. I evaluated the various technologies, both of which I actually use daily, and came to the following conclusions:

I’ll give you the punchline first, and then we’ll go into the boring discussion of what’s behind it. My educated, although still subjective, opinion is that the Biograph produces better images. Sorry, GE, but Siemens gives us images with less noise which are overall more pleasing and easier to read, again, in my opinion. . .

. . .What I do know is that the images from the Biograph are better, at least to me, than those from the Discovery. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. . .

You might ask, “Will the Discovery fail to demonstrate something that the Biograph would show?” Now that’s one question I can’t honestly answer, and it’s probably the most important of all. Time will tell on that one. But you can bet it will become obvious eventually.

Apparently, a competitor (which one is obvious) used this material in sales, which is their privilege, and I can’t say that bothers me particularly. Assuming that I was quoted correctly, and from what I’ve heard, they either handed out copies, or gave out my URL. I would certainly like to hear from any of you who received this material.

But somehow, word got back to GE that I had declared the Discovery’s images “non-diagnostic”. That is simply not true. The quote above is a direct clip from the offending post, which is now off-line. Nowhere do I say that GE’s scanner is non-diagnostic, and if I felt that way, I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, read from their machine. The patients come first, you know.

Supposedly, when someone like me “declares” that a machine is non-diagnostic, the manufacturer must file dozens of papers with the FDA to show that the claim is false. So, our rep went to the clinic that owns the Discovery to see what was the matter. The techs told him that there was no problem (and I remember them asking me why he would think there was), but in the process, this whole situation was mentioned to others. Supposedly, that is all that happened. You all know the rest of the story as it progressed from there.

Our rep had heard about the discomfort this had caused me and expressed sincere regret. Apology accepted, and I’m happy to let bygones be bygones. What was told to me when I was called on the carpet for my blog-posts placed more blame on GE than they deserve, based on today’s disclosure.

As I said at the time, this whole episode demonstrates the desperate need for better communication. Had GE approached me immediately, we could have put the whole problem to rest then and there. As it stands, everyone involved had an unnecessary trip through the ringer. The thread spawned by these unfortunate events disclosed a huge current of anti-GE sentiment, which I found quite surprising and very, very sad.

Let’s all take this lesson to heart and proceed forward. In this day and age, it is critical for vendors to hear what their customers have to say. Maybe today’s sale will be lost, but tomorrow’s might be saved. And, let’s all do a better job of listening to each other. I am very approachable, and I would like to think reasonable as well. Talk to me. Don’t wait until a situation blows up in our faces to say what should have been said.