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Service company Orasis to offer Internet-based remote diagnostics


Firm could level playing field with OEMsA new type of equipment service technology is in the works bya service company in Irvine, CA. Orasis Medical Services is developinga plan to offer remote diagnostics to companies that provide

Firm could level playing field with OEMs

A new type of equipment service technology is in the works bya service company in Irvine, CA. Orasis Medical Services is developinga plan to offer remote diagnostics to companies that provide multivendorservice of imaging equipment. The plan is novel in that it usesthe Internet to convey information for off-site troubleshooting.

Orasis was founded by service veteran Roger Eastvold, who isdeveloping remote diagnostics technology designed to receive diagnostictest data and even medical images over the Internet while providinginstructions for field engineers on how to repair the equipmentusing World Wide Web-based documentation.

Orasis plans to put manuals and procedures on a Web site, withhypertext linking, to allow field engineers to download the informationusing a notebook computer. At the same time, the notebook monitorsthe performance of the system being serviced and transmits diagnosticdata for troubleshooters to analyze. The goal is to develop anintegrated service process that unites on-site staff, off-sitesupport personnel and technology that leads to the rapid solutionof problems.

"There is nothing magic about (remote diagnostics),"Eastvold said. "It is simple science, but it requires a fairlylarge investment. That has kept many companies, particularly ISOs,from producing these kinds of systems -- and OEMs won't sharetheirs. That really gives OEMs a huge advantage."

That advantage could disappear if Eastvold succeeds. The technologywould ultimately support the servicing of multimodality equipmentfrom a number of vendors, leveling the playing field between themajor companies and smaller firms that want to keep their serviceoperations current.

Subscriber service. Rather than sell the technology, Eastvoldplans to use it to support hospitals and clinics that want todo in-house service. These clients would pay a monthly subscriptionfee for access to the remote diagnostic system that Orasis hasdeveloped.

Eastvold also plans to sell the service to independent serviceorganizations (ISOs) -- even OEMs -- that want to compete formultivendor service contracts and need a remote diagnostics system.

"With the rise in interest in multivendor service contracts,the OEMs have essentially become ISOs," Eastvold said. "Theyare out there now facing the same problems that they created forthe smaller companies in trying to service technology that theydon't have the tools for. It has really created quite a marketfor us."

The subscription service provided by Orasis would be transparentto the customer who contracts with the OEM or ISO. Service callsfrom hospitals would be handled initially by Orasis staff, whowould define the problem and possibly find a solution withoutresorting to a service call.

If an engineer must be sent on-site, Orasis staff would workwith the engineer interactively through a remote link establishedvia the Internet. The field engineer would also be equipped byOrasis with automated tests and expert systems to evaluate imagingequipment.

"We are developing the kind of capability that will givea consistency to the quality of service, not only from serviceengineer to service engineer but from product to product and fromcompany to company," Eastvold said. "We are going tostart with certain products by certain manufacturers, chosen bythe size of the installed base and potential for drawing customers.Then we will move on to other systems and manufacturers."

Revenues from such a subscription service are only one partof the Orasis strategy. The company plans to capture revenue fromthe other side of the fence as well, building service systemsunder contract with OEMs that are tailored to the vendors' specificequipment. One such contract with Toshiba America Medical Systemsof Tustin, CA, is already in place; another is being negotiated.Funds earned through OEM contracts will finance the continuingdevelopment of Orasis' own remote diagnostics system.

The industry's move toward adopting the ACR-NEMA's DICOM 3.0connectivity standard has helped make multivendor remote diagnosticssystems a possibility, Eastvold said. So has the move toward Unix-basedcomputer operating systems. But the critical ingredients for turningthis concept into reality are the experience and knowledge Eastvoldhas gained while developing test methodology for the medical imagingindustry.

Eastvold's first contributions were in helping to develop GE'sInSite remote diagnostics system. He went on to create ToshibaAmerica's InnerVision system. Eastvold founded Orasis in early1994, joining up most recently with Ravi Sharma, formerly Toshiba'svice president of marketing. Sharma also headed Toshiba's serviceoperations during his stint with the company.

Eastvold hopes to be testing a proprietary remote diagnosticsservice system at beta sites before the close of the first quarterof 1996. Initially the technology will be designed to serviceMRI scanners. That will be expanded to CT and, potentially, toother modalities.

"We already have a lot of the fundamental building blockscomplete," Eastvold said. "It's the fifth or sixth timeI've been through this process of building the tools and technology,so it has gotten pretty routine, although this is the first timeI am doing it for somebody other than an OEM."

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