HeartIT turns digital files into Web pages

September 29, 2006

Docs stuck trying to manipulate pull-down menus, adjusting windows, and leveling cardiac images can take heart. A new start-up firm in Durham, NC, has designed a cardiovascular image management system to help.

Docs stuck trying to manipulate pull-down menus, adjusting windows, and leveling cardiac images can take heart. A new start-up firm in Durham, NC, has designed a cardiovascular image management system to help.

Heart Imaging Technologies has come up with a cardiovascular image management system, dubbed WebPAX, that supports all cardiovascular modalities, including cardiac cath, echo, nuclear medicine, MR, and CT. WebPAX, which cleared the FDA 15 months ago, allows the viewing of these images anywhere, anytime on any computer with any Web browser, according to Dr. Robert M. Judd, one of the company founders. The capability for doing so is proprietary technology that converts images from DICOM format to Web pages.

Physicians at about a dozen sites around the world such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Nashville Cardiovascular MRI Institute, and the Robert Bosch Hospital in Germany are using this technology. Judd would like to expand beyond these facilities. His goal is to develop a worldwide research network to support viewing of dynamic cardiac images over the Web. The idea grew from the unmet research needs of Judd and his colleagues at Duke Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Center, where he is co-director.

"We've came to realize that we all have these Web interfaces, which are inside firewalls, but we knew if we could somehow connect them, we could pool our data and do multi-center research studies," Judd said.

The Duke center is doing exactly that with various collaborators around the world, using WebPAX as the catalyst. HeartIT is also using funds from the NIH to evolve the network into a fully-functional prototype of a general-purpose computing architecture, one that integrates data from multiple modalities acquired using equipment from multiple vendors and distributed around the world.

Meanwhile the company is pursuing the commercial spread of its technology. Earlier this month, HeartIT announced the installation of a hospital-wide WebPAX system at the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital at Ohio State University in Columbus. The system will manage all cardiac imaging modalities for the hospital, including x-ray coronary angiography, echocardiography, MRI, CT, and SPECT.

True to the principles behind its creation, images at the OSU hospital can be pulled up within minutes of the scan, using nothing but a Web browser, said Brent Reed, director of software development at HeartIT.

"WebPAX has considerable advantages over other PACS for the latest cardiac modalities, MR, and CT," he said.

Unlike other PACS, HeartIT's system is not based on DICOM but on standard Web-viewing technology. The use of Web technologies allows single-mouse-click access to medical images by anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection, including remotely-located physicians and even patients. This is the key to its future success, according to Judd.

"It's always been an effort to get your medical images into a format that you could deal with," he said. "Now we have what we feel is the most widely available format, something that can be displayed on a Web browser."

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