This featured post was written by Sean Fenske and originally published on MDT.
The next generation of imaging technologies will undoubtedly offer unbelievable visualization capabilities and enhance diagnostics even more than it is with today’s offerings. However, with this greater level of functionality comes an almost exponential increase in the challenges of meeting the needs of today’s clinicians in terms of storing that data, enabling access, and managing the system.
Attempting to get ahead of that problem is CEO of DICOM Grid, Morris Panner. His company offers a cloud-based image management solution that may be implemented to resolve many of the challenges experienced when using these advanced imaging systems. Panner spoke with me regarding his imaging management platform, the challenges faced, implementation of a cloud-based system, and what’s ahead for his company and the imaging industry.
Sean Fenske: Thanks for speaking with me today. Before we get started on your imaging management solution, can you please provide a little of your background in the medtech space?
Morris Panner: I’ve worked in the enterprise and cloud software areas in business process and healthcare verticals. Prior to DICOM Grid, I built and sold an industry-leading business process software company, OpenAir, to NetSuite. Prior to that, I worked in the Tele-Radiology vertical, founding a company called Tele-Rad. I’ve served as the Chair of the Software and Information Industry Association and am a frequent speaker and contributor to business, healthcare, and technology forums and publications.
Fenske: Sounds like a fantastic history within several aspects of the medical technology industry. Now with DICOM Grid, you are resolving the challenges associated with managing medical imaging. Can you please discuss the solution you provide?
Panner: DICOM Grid is an open cloud platform for medical imaging applications. Our patented data security transforms medical imaging information into a dynamic data warehouse where open web services provide universal access to all of a customer’s clinically rich data. Users can safely and easily deploy cloud applications for medical imaging collaboration, exchange, viewing, vendor-neutral archive, business continuity, EMR integration, bio-informatics, and more.
Fenske: So essentially, by leveraging the cloud technology, you’re enabling the data to be accessed from virtually anywhere? Why is this important with medical imaging today?
Panner: DG mobilizes imaging data so that users can access, view, and share it from any location. While traditional PACS have been focused on solving the hospital element of medical image management, the world is changing quickly. In the era of accountable care and consumer driven medical choice, hospitals are only part of the equation. I like to quote one prominent industry analyst, who says the most important things in healthcare today are taking place outside of the hospital. Current systems do not solve the greater issue of image distribution across facilities or even between various departments within a single organization. The ability to distribute and exchange studies is critical for efficient medical image management. The United States currently spends over $15 billion per year in redundant medical imaging. With enhanced access to medical imaging, we can avoid redundant radiology exams and the health concerns and costs associated with them. We can also improve care. The ability to rapidly share medical images from anywhere also allows patients and doctors alike to receive medical advice and opinions from top physicians at larger facilities.
Fenske: Can your solution be integrated with any type of image capture system (for example, MRI, X-ray, CAT, etc.)?
Panner: Yes, our solution can be fully integrated with any type of image capture system. Using our workflow automation tool, the user can share studies from any device across groups, users, specified PACS, and modalities based on user set parameters. Our system becomes the core enabler of collaboration and exchange.
Fenske: How does leveraging the cloud for medical device information (for example, data, images, etc.) lower costs?
Panner: If a healthcare institution is not moving to the cloud, I question whether they will be able to compete in the new healthcare climate. A healthcare provider simply can’t manage care and costs without treating healthcare data securely and flexibly. The modern cloud systems make this possible. You don’t need to repeat imaging studies and, more importantly, you can run an emergency department more efficiently with people moving to the appropriate care more rapidly. As we work on mobile solutions, sometimes care can be accomplished with no hospital visit at all or at the facility where the person is. On the operational side, the new cloud systems also provide a better total cost of ownership compared to traditional PACS systems, which include upfront as well as ongoing costs. The revolution in software development and purchasing has taken place across global industry and is now moving hard and fast into healthcare.
Fenske: How do you respond to those who question the security of a cloud solution?
Panner: DG’s technology is HIPAA compliant and designed with patented security technology that keeps patient information safe. Image data is shared via a secure web link and can only be accessed by authorized personnel. Patented split-merge technology anonymizes image studies by removing protected health information (PHI) from imaging data. The PHI is separately encrypted and stored, creating an Internet-safe image study.
Fenske: What are the challenges of operating in the mobile healthcare space?
Panner: I like to say, “What are the opportunities of operating in the mobile healthcare space?” We are able, for the first time, to bring care to the patient faster and without regard to geography. This is a huge step forward. Let me give you an example. We provide telestroke coverage for the Mayo clinic. That means that a person in a remote hospital can have the imaging study sent in real time to a neurologist using a mobile device. That doctor can opine on treatment in real time and, given the time sensitive nature of stroke treatment, minutes can make all the difference. Medicine can really go real time.
Fenske: That’s probably a better way of looking at it. With that said, however, there are still challenges even with these new opportunities. Do you have a comment with regard to the new challenges you encounter?
Panner: As you say, there are challenges operating in a mobile environment. Everyone’s expectations change. You now have a belief and expectation that you will have 24/7 access and insight. For example, we signed an unprecedented 100% uptime guarantee, so that our customers never went down, not even for planned maintenance. This also requires a new conception of on-call. Now, you are working in a distributed network. There was a publication a few years ago called “Always On.” The publication tried to capture the change in global business as people felt that they were always on. Now, that sentiment is moving to healthcare. In the old days, if you weren’t in the hospital and not on call, your day was very different. Now, there is a new way of working.
Fenske: I’m sure healthcare professionals would be thrilled to hear that! Getting back to the technology and more specifically, cloud solutions in healthcare, where do you think cloud-based technology stands to experience significant growth in the medical environment?
Panner: Cloud imaging is the area that stands to experience the most rapid growth. Why? Because imaging is the key to healthcare. At major institutions, 85% or more of referrals can come with imaging. It is very difficult for a clinician to make a decision without imaging. As a result, if you can see the imaging faster, a physician can make a decision about treatment more easily. Now, consumers are often shopping for the best and most effective care. If a consumer can get an opinion remotely, they can make a decision where to travel. This same trend is being driven by employers and payers looking for the best and most cost-effective care.
Fenske: The traditional model is really going to change significantly in the coming years. With that said, beyond imaging, where do you see the use of cloud technology as a whole headed in the healthcare space?
Panner: There is a wonderful analysis of today’s economy that observed the most valuable lodging company has no real estate, the most valuable transportation company owns no vehicles, the most valuable publishing and content company has no media properties. The cloud enables these trends. This will happen in healthcare, too. We see it in telemedicine and we will see it in the type of remote diagnostics and centers of excellence that are already popping up.
Fenske: Where is the diagnostic imaging sector headed?
Panner: Diagnostic imaging is still the most important clinical element when treating significant disease. As a result, diagnostic imaging is going to continue to grow and be a vital part of all care decisions. Bringing cloud capabilities to this area will be the critical difference maker as healthcare institutions become more nimble.
Fenske: Any final thoughts on your experiences in the healthcare industry?
Panner: There has never been a better time to be a healthcare entrepreneur. The pace of innovation is what our nation deserves. We are making incredible changes to a system that is critical to all of our wellbeing. It is a great honor to be part of it.