ImageMoverMD Helps Clinicians, Patients Transmit Photos Securely
[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories on physicians at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics who have become full- or part-time entrepreneurs.]
Software is eating the world, and solid-state storage will not be spared.
In movies and television, streaming services like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) are rendering DVDs obsolete. In music, Spotify and other Web applications are replacing MP3s, which themselves supplanted CDs not so long ago.
In healthcare, where the unauthorized transmission of patients’ protected health information (PHI) can result in steep fines or even jail time, some are welcoming the shift from physical to cloud-based storage.
Gary Wendt, a radiologist at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, says that for years, providers at the health system have found it useful to have patients photographed in certain situations. One such scenario is when someone arrives at the emergency room with a severe wound, he says.
Wendt says that in the past, taking a patient’s picture required the staff at UW Health to locate one of the organization’s digital cameras, snap a photo, and upload the image to a computer via a secure digital (SD) card.
This process was not ideal for several reasons, one of which is that it required hospital employees to remember to delete images from SD cards after uploading them, Wendt says. If someone skipped that step and the department lost track of the card, the consequences for UW Health could be dire, he says.
“It’s a real pain because you have to be schlepping SD cards and cameras around,” Wendt says. “These cards are sitting around and they develop feet—they just walk away. If that card walks out the door, all of this PHI is now gone.”
So in 2013, Wendt and Richard Bruce—also a UW Health radiologist—co-founded ImageMoverMD, a Middleton, WI-based startup whose software helps facilitate the secure transmission of patient images and videos.
The mission of the early-stage company, which was originally called WITS(MD) before changing its name in February, was to simplify a convoluted process and minimize risk, as Wendt described. So he and Bruce rounded up a team of programmers and started building the ImageMover mobile app, which is now available for iOS and Android devices.
Suppose you develop a rash just before you’re scheduled to see your primary care doctor for a routine physical. You show the rash to your internist, who decides she needs to consult a dermatologist to discuss treatment options. At this point, the internist has a couple of options. She can call the dermatologist and try to describe the rash over the phone. She can submit a referral request, which would require you to set up a separate appointment with the dermatologist. Or she can pull out her smartphone and use ImageMover to photograph the rash and upload the image to the hospital’s electronic health records (EHR) system. The dermatologist can then pull up the patient’s digital chart, which now contains the rash picture.
(It’s important to note here that once the image goes into a patient’s health record, it is immediately deleted from ImageMover’s mobile app. It’s also erased from the company’s servers, which sit in between the app and the EHR. The startup designed the software so that images don’t automatically get stored on phones, as other photos do. “Your phone never contains any PHI,” Wendt says. “It doesn’t have patient name. It doesn’t have medical record number. It doesn’t have anything.”)
The rash example above highlights how the tool can help can improve communication between providers. But increasingly, patients are themselves becoming users of EHR software through online portals. One of them, called MyChart, is developed by Epic Systems, a large health records vendor headquartered a few miles south of ImageMoverMD in Verona, WI. With MyChart, patients can use computers and mobile devices to do things like request prescription refills, view lab results, and communicate with their primary care physicians. At organizations like UW Health, which has licensed MyChart for years and now has also licensed ImageMover for its dermatology department, patients can send their doctors photos, potentially replacing an in-person appointment with an electronic visit, or e-visit.
“If you have a teenager with acne, rather than going into the clinic once a month to renew a prescription, you take a photo of your kid’s face and send it in through MyChart,” says K. Thomas Pickard, who became CEO of ImageMoverMD a little over a year ago and recently relocated to Wisconsin from California. “The dermatologist reviews the e-visit and calls your prescription into the pharmacy. Your child doesn’t have to get removed from school, you don’t need to take off from work, and the dermatologist makes better use of his or her time.”
Pickard says that hospitals and clinics can elect to license ImageMover for providers to use, without also opening it up to patients. However, he says that increasingly, patients want to be involved in their healthcare, and that this is something most health systems are aware of and trying to embrace.
In addition to UW Health, Pickard says that four other health systems are currently using ImageMoverMD’s tools. One is the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, WI, which Wendt says initially purchased the software to import a batch of nearly 3 million images. They had been part of an archive that ophthalmologists and other employees need to access, and the vendor of the software that underpinned the archive was preparing to cut off its support, he says.
“Once we solved that, we started talking about integrating with [Marshfield Clinic’s] EHR system,” Wendt says.
Pickard declined to name the company’s three other clients.
He also kept mum when asked whether the startup was expecting to raise additional outside financing. (Last July, ImageMoverMD raised $1.6 million, mostly from angel investors in Wisconsin.)
The company currently has five full-time employees, Pickard says, and he expects the engineering team will expand in the next year. Wendt says that he and Bruce continue to be involved on a part-time basis.
Looking toward the future, Pickard says the startup is focused on signing up more customers, and expanding the use of ImageMover at those health systems that are already using the applications. He wouldn’t rule out an exit at some point in the future, though says it’s not something he gives much thought to at the moment.
“[We have] no interest in being acquired now—we’re a little too early in our history,” he says, then pauses. “But anything is possible.”