11 Oct GE Healthcare's acquisition of Dynamic Imaging brings Web-based access to medical images
Waukesha, Wis. – GE Healthcare’s acquisition of Dynamic Imaging will integrate more than two companies, it will merge information technology healthcare solutions as well.
Those solutions – GE’s medical imaging technology and Dynamic Imaging’s web-based Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) and integrated Radiology Information Systems (RIS)/PACS – will be merged to expand the availability of medical images to all segments of the healthcare system, the companies said.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but for both companies the business benefits are evident. For Dynamic Imaging, an Allendale, N.J.-based provider of web-based image and information management that already has global clients, it’s an opportunity to reach GE’s even more expansive worldwide customer base.
For GE Healthcare, it fast forwards the organization into the Web-based PACS market and provides access to new market segments such as community hospitals, ambulatory centers, and physician’s offices.
Alex Jurovitsky, CEO of Dynamic Imaging, said some of the solutions made possible by the integration of products could be relevant to radiologists that need to interpret an image remotely rather than being at the radiology department, or to clinical staff that might need to examine post-process results (over the Internet) while they are on the move.
“With any of this, once you integrate two powerful solutions, then you’re expanding the capabilities in both directions, and it’s multi-dimensional,” Jurovitsky said.
Don Woodlock, vice president and global general manager of imaging solutions for GE Healthcare, said the basic clinical problem the companies are trying to solve is the availability of images. Having a web-based technology enables health professionals in any setting – referring physicians, clinicians out in the community, and physicians in the emergency department – to instantaneously access images and radiology reports.
Woodlock said this wider availability of images greatly enhances the patient-care process. For some diseases, having access to prior images, and comparing those to the current images, is extremely important. “So having access to those prior images, having a much better architecture for distributing images around the hospital system and around the community, is critical to good patient care, and that’s what this technology can help with,” he said.
The availability of medical images also has implications for GE Healthcare’s early health model, which seeks to find ways to identify health problems before there are symptoms. The pillars of early health are predict, diagnose, treat, monitor, and inform, and the inform piece is what this technological combination is designed to support.
Having the images, at least from the radiology department, available throughout the hospital system and available to community physician centers, places everybody on the same page in terms of patient imaging data, which theoretically will help everyone diagnose and treat disease earlier.
According to Woodlock, the patient generally will have access to the images on demand. Radiologists and physicians offices sometimes burn the images on CDs, and the patients take home the CDs.
“Basically, for us to move the healthcare system to an earlier health model, all of the physicians involved in the care of patients need to have access to the latest and all of the patient’s clinical data,” Woodlock said. “And by using a web-based technology, where access to the images can be available from anybody with a computer that has a right to see those images, the ‘inform’ piece of distributing those images just got a lot stronger.”
Jurovitsky said the tools built into Dynamic Imaging’s technology expand access for an earlier diagnosis of images. Traditionally, radiologists have been thought of as primary consumers of PACS systems and electronic images, but now there are other specialists in medicine that want to have a close look. A neurosurgeon may need to make a middle-of-the-night decision to drive to the hospital based on his or her diagnosis. With this combination of technologies, Jurovitsky said the neurosurgeon will be able to accurately assess the patient’s situation and make that call from home.
“There are many examples of other types of clinicians that would benefit, like orthopedic people that can pre-plan their surgery electronically from their offices,” he added. “There are many applications, and we sort of complement GE’s technology with this kind of tool that would assist in early diagnosis, early detection, and speedy treatment of patients.”
Storage and security
Woodlock said the cost of storing images has gone down significantly over the past several years, and that has enabled the PACS market to grow, and both GE and Dynamic Imaging, in different segments of the market, have enjoyed the growth of the PACS industry. With PACS, he said GE Healthcare, a $17 billion unit of General Electric Co., has been able to reach more customers, and there is a clear return on investment for this kind of technology in terms of radiologists’ productivity, overall system efficiency, and patient care.
“These systems have been adopted heavily over the last 10 years,” Woodlock said. “We see the adoption increasing in ambulatory centers and stand-alone hospitals, and storage, though part of the equation, hasn’t been a cost barrier to adoption of these technologies.”
Jurovitsky noted the technology convergence doesn’t really change storage needs, but the responsibility depends on the approach. If it involves image distribution in conjunction with GE Healthcare’s Centricity (emergency medical record) solution, Centricity will continue accumulating the storage to expand archives over time. If it involves new customers, Dynamic Imaging archives will fulfill that.
Some special security steps were needed because of the move to a web-based product. There are a number of security layers, including encrypted transmission over the Internet, plus assorted security features that are built into the system to allow users to meet HIPAA requirements.
Eventually, Woodlock believes the combination will enable patient data exchange between hospitals. Both organizations have advocated industry standards for the interoperability of data. One of the obvious enablers for the interoperability of data is that it has been digitized, and facilities can import and export it.
“We think, with the combination of the two companies, we’ll be able to reach more hospitals, more ambulatory centers, and more integrated delivery networks with technology like this,” Woodlock said. “With our support of standards, we can interoperate with other systems like electronic medical records and others to make sure these images are available to anyone who needs them.”
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