DR Systems Spins Off eMix to Provide Online Exchange for Medical Images

Bill O’Leary, an IT specialist at a hospital in Montana, got a typical request one evening in January. A physician at another hospital, in this case a pediatric neurologist in Seattle, needed O’Leary to send the doctor a patient’s medical imaging exam. To transfer the digital image a year ago, O’Leary would have spent hours setting up a private Internet connection between his hospital and the physician’s hospital. Or, he could have copied the image onto a CD and mailed it to Seattle within two days.

With the neurologist’s request, however, O’Leary used a third-party service called eMix that allowed him to send the imaging exam over the Web almost as easily as e-mailing the record to the hospital in Seattle. “It’s a lot faster than over-nighting a CD,” says O’Leary, of Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

Online services like eMix are beginning to catch on because of their ability to bridge gaps in hospitals’ ability to share medical images. The company is wholly owned by San Diego-based DR Systems, a provider of radiology software that developed the eMix technology over the past couple of years.

The eMix service addresses one part of a huge problem in healthcare: hospitals have invested big bucks in IT systems that are often unable to easily “talk” to each other or exchange data like electronic health records and digital medical images. A typical solution has been to load medical images onto CDs, which patients can carry to appointments with doctors at separate facilities. But that practice has proven to be ineffective, for example, because the images on CDs are often damaged or unable to be read on other hospital’s computers. When the records aren’t readily available, the imaging exams often need to be redone, which contributes to the estimated $3 billion to $10 billion per year the U.S. healthcare system spends on unnecessary medical imaging, according to Imaging e-Ordering Coalition, a advocacy group formed last year.

There’s been a gold rush of sorts in recent years among healthcare software outfits develop technology that fixes this problem in sharing medical images. Hopkinton, MA-based data storage giant EMC, a major provider of data management hardware and software for hospitals and customers in other industries, is backing a Boston-area startup called LifeImage to develop a service to securely exchange medical images over the Internet. (EMC’s (NYSE:EMC) data-management technology is also used in the data center that supports the eMix service, according to Florent Saint-Clair, a program director for eMix). Seemyradiology.com, a medical image-sharing Web service from the Atlanta-based radiology software firm … Next Page »

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