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First Device Firm to Win Baldrige Award Finds Profit in Quality

An MD&DI January 1997 Feature Article


The many quality changes, especially the emphasis on continuous improvement, have led to a fundamental redirection of thought at every level of the company, according to Keare. This change in thinking has spurred the company to explore new opportunities, such as the development of molecular coincidence detection (MCD), a technology that expands the capabilities of conventional nuclear medicine cameras to allow imaging of positron-emitting isotopes. Prior to this development, positron imaging was mostly done at institutions possessing a PET (positron emission tomography) scanner, a stand-alone instrument that costs up to $2 million.

Revamping the electronics in standard nuclear medicine cameras, which are widely used for studies of the heart, opened the door for use of both conventional radioisotopes and positron isotopes, which have been shown in PET research to provide better assessments not only of the heart but also of cancer and even brain function. The company is now moving toward full production of the MCD technology while luminary sites in the United States and around the world build clinical credibility for the approach.

ADAC has also developed a new suite of radiology and laboratory information systems. Since the early 1980s, the company had dabbled in the information systems markets, but in 1995, it jumped in with both feet, acquiring the assets of struggling Community Health Computing (Houston), which offered both laboratory and radiology information systems. CHC was integrated into ADAC's health-care information systems business, which has established itself as a major player with the LabSTAT and QuadRIS client/server products.

Lowe says that the success of these and other ADAC products will be driven by a focus on customer satisfaction--the fourth building block of the company's TQM system. The central focus in ADAC's customer relations has become a willingness to listen to and act upon customer suggestions. In 1995, ADAC expanded its ability to meet customer needs with the acquisition of JD Technical Services (Washington, MO), a remanufacturer of nuclear medicine equipment.

JD fills a need for used nuclear medicine systems. Hammered by managed care and other cost constraints, health-care providers have begun looking for low-cost equipment that can perform the bread-and-butter kinds of nuclear medicine examinations done in many hospitals. Used systems are suitable if they're reliable. For ADAC, providing this reliable used equipment was a natural outgrowth of listening to customers. "We knew that was a market and we didn't have the core competencies to address it," Starr says. "With JD Technical, we do."

ADAC's professed goal is to become the most respected and admired company in the worldwide health-care market by 1998. By implementing several quality techniques in the last few years, the firm is closer than ever to meeting this goal. Winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1996 was just a step in what Mosbarger describes as a quality journey, and if the company is true to its mantra of continuous improvement, that journey will never end.

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