StorCOMM provides software to meet all image management needsCompany's offering adds imaging capability to existing HIS networks To achieve the electronic patient record, hospitals need digital access to images from all medical
Company's offering adds imaging capability to existing HIS networks
To achieve the electronic patient record, hospitals need digital access to images from all medical specialties. For many PACS companies, however, management of medical
images begins and ends in the radiology department.
Taking a different approach is StorCOMM, a small Jacksonville, FL-based company that offers ImageACCESS, a software application that allows hospitals to manage all of their clinical image data using one program. The Windows NT-based ImageACCESS can be integrated into existing healthcare information systems, allowing physicians access to images from radiology, cardiology, pathology, dermatology, neurology, and other specialties, simply by clicking on an icon on their existing healthcare information system, said Tony Lazos, president and CEO.
"A hospital does not have to change any of its information systems in order to incorporate ImageACCESS," he said.
ImageACCESS initially has been configured with a system from HIS firm MedPlus, and future plans call for integration with other healthcare information systems.
A 28-year healthcare industry veteran, Lazos founded StorCOMM in September 1995 to commercialize technology that had been under development primarily by a consulting company called Paradigm, which had been contracted by healthcare giant Premier to develop clinical image management software. That project, which began in 1989, resulted in the development of the first-generation ImageACCESS system.
After StorCOMM secured the rights and patents for ImageACCESS in 1995, the company spent two years improving the technology and building the corporate infrastructure necessary to support it. Although the first-generation ImageACCESS had received Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance, StorCOMM resubmitted for FDA clearance in 1997 to account for the many changes to the product. Final clearance was granted on Jan. 2.
Since then, the company has placed six ImageACCESS systems in the field, all in various stages of implementation. In addition, the company has grown its staff to 60, up from the six original employees in 1995.
In addition to allowing speedy image viewing, the DICOM and HL-7 compliant ImageACCESS also provides image archiving functions. Each of the company's servers can store two million uncompressed images online, with each individual WORM (write once, read many) drive able to store 84,000 images. That drive-storage capacity is roughly equivalent to about 120 CD-ROMs, Lazos said.
There is no limit to the amount of servers that can be supported by ImageACCESS, and the company estimates its storage media cost is less than a penny per image. Image retrieval time from anywhere on the network takes less than one second, he said.
If the customer chooses, off-site backups can be maintained to provide protection against an archive failure. For example, a backup server can be located in another facility to provide disaster recovery.
StorCOMM elected not to use jukeboxes in its archiving offerings, since the mechanical arms employed in jukeboxes represent potential points of failure, Lazos said. In addition, as an off-line form of archiving, jukeboxes confer unacceptable delays in image retrieval, said George Treiber, chief technology officer.
For diagnostic image reading, the company typically provides workstations at resolutions of 2K x 2.5K.
Direct capture of digital modalities is used, while the company's proprietary Film Capture Station handles digitization of radiographic studies. Another interesting feature of the system is its ImagePIPE concept.
In order not to regularly tax the hospital's existing network bandwidth with heavy transfers of large image data files, StorCOMM can install an additional fiber-optic network line that will handle only image transmission. ImagePIPE also enables network delivery of full-motion images, such as color Doppler ultrasound examinations with sound, ultrasound examinations in progress, and angiography images, Treiber said.
In order to keep costs down, StorCOMM has turned to off-the-shelf hardware components to fill out the product line. The company claims its products cost 25% to 40% less than its competition, depending on configuration. Customer payback on ImageACCESS purchases takes between one to two years, according to the firm.
The vendor has also taken a strong service orientation in its approach to market. All of its customers have a full-time, on-site clinical support staffer, who typically comes from a clinical background, Treiber said. The StorCOMM employee provides ongoing technical support as well as training and problem solving.
At this point, StorCOMM is focused on building its business in North America. At the same time, however, the company announced an alliance with British Telecom subsidiary BT Health at the 1997 Radiological Society of North America meeting. The two companies will be jointly offering enterprise-wide clinical image management systems to the National Health Service in the U.K. In support of that effort, StorCOMM has opened a U.K. office near London.
While the company has formed alliances with several HIS firms, it is currently emphasizing its direct sales efforts, Lazos said. The company has a direct sales force of five regional vice presidents, who are all veterans of the HIS industry.
"In order to control the destiny of our company and to make sure the systems work, we work directly with the customer," he said. "As we expand the organization, we will develop relationships with networking implementation companies that will help us install these systems. But that will come as we evolve in the marketplace."
As a small company in a PACS market dominated by giants, StorCOMM faces challenges in convincing customers to take a chance on a less well established company. But with market interest growing in integrated image and information management systems, a broader approach to image management could prove to be a winning concept.
Storage firm DISC has integrated Sony's 5.2 GB optical disk drives into its optical jukebox offerings. The new drives double the storage capacity available on DISC's previous drives. When used in conjunction with 5.2 GB media, the drives offer 8x read and write speeds, an average access time of 25 ms, and data transfer rates between 2.2 and 4.6 Mbytes/second. Up to 32 drives and 1,050 disks can be supported in DISC's new Orion automated line of automated storage libraries.
The firm's existing jukeboxes can be upgraded in the field to support the high-capacity drives. After the upgrade, DISC's jukeboxes will still be able to run their existing 2.6 GB drives, according to Milpitas, CA-based DISC.
8649 Baypine Rd.
7 Corporate Plaza
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Number of employees
StorCOMM believes its focus on providing complete clinical image management solutions is its ticket to market success. In addition, StorCOMM plans to maintain its focus on providing software packages running on off-the-shelf hardware.