Merge Healthcare Sees Second Chance In Medical Imaging
Vendor CEO calls for rapid image sharing and integration into EMRs.
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As hospitals try to figure out how to integrate imaging into their EHR systems and create interoperability of their data, Jeff Surges, CEO of Merge Healthcare, sees business opportunity.
After surviving an accounting scandal and near bankruptcy, the imaging software developer is poised to take full advantage of the federal government's Meaningful Use programs.
"I really think Meaningful Use has provided a Trojan horse for people to reassess their IT strategies," Surges told InformationWeek Healthcare in an interview at Merge's headquarters. That, he believes, is providing an opening for the company.
Merge offers Honeycomb, a cloud-based network for sharing medical images, delivery of compressed image files over the Web, and EMR technology for imaging-specific medical specialties such as radiology, cardiology, and orthopedics. "The image is the most important attachment [to an EMR]," Surges said.
The company's value proposition has several parts, according to Surges. The first is the promise of preventing unnecessary radiation doses by cutting down on the number of duplicate tests. Reduced duplication will come in handy in the near future, as Medicare stops paying for preventable hospital readmissions and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), aimed at moving American healthcare away from volume-based reimbursement, take hold.
Merge also touts its access to information, allowing quick storage and retrieval of massive files. Surges noted that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule requires healthcare entities to store electronic health data, including digital images, for seven years. "You can get up to terabytes and petabytes quickly," Surges said.
Surges noted that even a simple image like an elbow or knee X-ray is five to six gigabytes. "It's like opening up a DVD," the CEO said. Merge has developed technology to deliver large images quickly by compressing the files on the server end.
This is not exactly picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). Surges said that making imaging files and related reports available more quickly is the "secret sauce" of Merge. "This is a long way from traditional PACS," he explained.
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