Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What, Merge? No Dalai?

A friend received this press release early today, and ironically, it is not yet anywhere to be found on the Merge.com website (as of 9:30 AM EDT) (UPDATE:  It's finally online.)

Merge Healthcare Announces Creation of Clinical Advisory Board
Expert Panel to Provide Patient-Centric Solutions to Improve and Streamline Delivery of Care
CHICAGO, Oct. 4, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Merge Healthcare (Nasdaq:MRGE), a leading provider of enterprise imaging and interoperability solutions, announced today the development of an Advisory Board to share clinical expertise and provide consultation on new models of care and emerging trends focused on the patient-centric experience.
The Merge Advisory Board will focus on the fact that diagnostic images make up a significant and critical part of the diagnostic process, yet today, the exchange and sharing of these images is inefficient. This inefficiency fragments the healthcare process which contributes to delays in care and skyrocketing costs. The Merge Advisory Board will also address patient safety and quality of care through, among other things, focusing on the fact that patients' radiation exposures has doubled over the past 20 years and developing solutions that reduce such exposure.
Consider the realities of diagnostic imaging:
  • Healthcare organizations generate nearly 600 million diagnostic imaging procedures annually;
  • One CT scan of the abdomen exposes a patient to the same amount of radiation as approximately 400 chest x-rays; and,
  • $100 billion of annual healthcare costs are related to diagnostic imaging tests – but an estimated 35% ($35 billion) represents unnecessary costs for US patients and insurance providers.
The Merge Advisory Board is led by Dr. Cheryl Whitaker, Merge's Chief Medical Officer; co-chaired by Dr. Paul Chang, Professor of Radiology and Vice Chair, Radiology Informatics at the University of Chicago Medical Center; and, Dr. Keith Dreyer, Vice Chairman of Radiology Informatics at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"We are extremely fortunate to have experts from these prestigious organizations advising the Merge team," said Jeff Surges, Chief Executive Officer of Merge Healthcare. "We look forward to the clinical dialogue that will develop, and to incorporating their knowledge and expertise into the image interoperability solutions we provide to clients and the healthcare marketplace."
"Merge believes in a patient-centric healthcare experience, and empowering physicians, patients and providers to proactively manage this healthcare," said Dr. Cheryl Whitaker, Chief Medical Officer at Merge Healthcare. "I look forward to working with this distinguished group of leaders to ensure we continue to develop solutions that simplify and improve the care process."

The Merge Advisory Board consists of the following imaging and healthcare experts:

Dr. William Boonn 
Chief of 3D and Advanced Imaging Lab
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
John A. Carrino, MD, MPH, PhD
Associate Professor of Radiology and Orthopaedic Surgery
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Dr. Paul Chang 
Professor of Radiology
Vice Chair, Radiology Informatics
University of Chicago Medical Center
Dr. Keith Dreyer, MD, PhD
Vice Chairman of Radiology Informatics 
Massachusetts General Hospital
David Mendelson, MD 
Chief of Clinical Informatics MSMC
Professor of Radiology
The Mount Sinai Medical Center 
Eliot Siegel, MD
Chief of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine
Veterans Affairs Maryland Healthcare System
Timothy Zoph 
Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Administration
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
What? No Dalai?

To be fair, this is a list of PACS luminaries, the likes of which you will find nowhere else, and the likes of me probably doesn't belong even reading such a list.

We see some very familiar names here.  Dr. Chang is quite famous in this space, in no small part for creating Stentor, developed at the University of Pittsburgh for $9 Million, which was bought by Philips for $45 Million and became iSite. He's now at the University of Chicago, and wouldn't you know it, they use iSite, according to one of my readers. I do not know offhand if Dr. Chang has had much hands-on experience with AMICAS Merge PACS.

Dr. Dreyer does have time on AMICAS Merge PACS, as Mass General uses AMICAS Merge PACS 6 as their web-client, something their old but functional Agfa 5.x doesn't have. His contributions to PACS are multitude as well, and he is perhaps the best choice to help Merge navigate the Meaningful Use maze. Dr. Dreyer has been a big proponent of Visage, so we may get to see how these two products play together.

Dr. Siegel is very well known in this venue.  Rumor has it he will be sending Watson to the Advisory Board meetings as his proxy. The Baltimore VA has Centricity, and the University of Maryland has Agfa IMPAX.

Johns Hopkins still has Emageon PACS as near as I can tell, but the one really BIG NAME radiologist I don't see on the list, Elliot Fishman, M.D., complained (in 2007) about Emageon's inability to handle more than 100 slices before choking. Of course, that led him to use the Siemens Leonardo InSpace workstation.  I don't know what PACS is in use at Hopkins today, however.

Dr. Boonn's University of Pennsylvania appears to have Siemens PACS, although I don't know if it is the new syngo.plaza or some older product.  (UPDATE:  I'm informed that U Penn now has Centricity.) As far as advanced imaging, the HUP website notes quite an arsenal:
Post-Processing: GE Advantage Windows, Vital Images Vitrea2, TeraRecon AquariusNet and INtuition, Siemens MMWP (Leonardo) and syngo.via, and QMass. Our 3D and Advanced Visualization Lab is staffed by four dedicated technologists who assist with workstation training for visiting fellows.
I couldn't find any reference to the PACS used at Northwestern (UPDATE: Northwestern uses Centricity), and Mount Sinai uses GE, I assume Centricity of one flavor or another, although I found mention of the use of OsiriX as well.

I certainly cannot fault Merge for choosing this very impressive panel as its Clinical Advisors. I don't think one could do much better, and this is the level of expertise I would expect to work with Messrs. Surges and Dearborn, not to mention Mr. Ferro, assuming he's working on this stuff at the moment.

I will certainly offer my services should there be some minor subcommittee formed that concerns itself with day-to-day operations of PACS software out here in the boonies.  On that, I am somewhat of an expert myself. (Just ask Agfa.) I'm at your beck and call, folks.  You know my number.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Siegel has GE Centricity at the VA and Agfa IMPAX at University of Maryland. Hopkins has Emageon/Amicas/Merge as their PACS. UPenn and Northwestern are GE Centricity shops. Univ of Chicago is Philips iSite customer.

Geoff said...

I can't speak for Dr. Whitaker, nor Merge in general even though I am an employee, but I think the focus of this group is on where imaging should go, not just PACS. Hence the broader group of advisors that don't necessarily use Merge PACS. That doesn't mean we're focusing less on PACS, just that we're looking at a bigger picture where PACS is still, as you say, the radiology department but that's no longer the border of imaging's reach.
It is, after all, the much-hyped 21st century. We live in a facebook world where I can share a photo with 1,000 friends (ok, more like 200 on my facebook). Why is it so difficult to share my MRI with a couple doctors? These are the luminaries who will help us define imaging as it catches up to social networking.