Teleradiology experts deploy subspecialty business model

August 16, 2006

When it comes to teleradiology, Franklin & Seidelmann is heads, arms, and legs above its competition. The company, based in Beachwood, OH, focuses on musculoskeletal and neuroradiology MR cases for imaging centers and orthopedic practices. It leverages 32 radiologists who are currently or formerly in academic settings to interpret these most challenging MR cases.

When it comes to teleradiology, Franklin & Seidelmann is heads, arms, and legs above its competition. The company, based in Beachwood, OH, focuses on musculoskeletal and neuroradiology MR cases for imaging centers and orthopedic practices. It leverages 32 radiologists who are currently or formerly in academic settings to interpret these most challenging MR cases.

"We bring together the expertise of several radiologists affiliated with academic institutions who keep on top of changing technologies and medical procedures," said Christine Boehm, vice president of marketing at F&S.

On Aug. 16, F&S signed three more imaging centers and two orthopedic practices, expanding its client base to about 140. The company has won a following by responding to clinical needs created by evolving technologies, Boehm said.

An example is clinical 3T and its application in imaging centers. If 3T is to catch on, promises of improved image quality and increased throughput must be kept. F&S can help.

"Our doctors have the edge in setting up protocols," Boehm said. "They have been using 3T and have gone through the trial and error."

The company's subspecialty expertise also presents an opportunity for equipment vendors. Prospective customers who are unsure about investing in a new technology such as 3T might be swayed if the expertise to operate the scanner effectively is just a broadband connection away.

F&S began working with vendors years ago as part of its evolving expertise in orthopedic MR. Vendors who sell extremity scanners began referring sites to F&S. The company is also forging a partnership with Hologic, which began distributing extremity scanners built by Esaote earlier this year.

F&S not only provides image interpretation but also supports the training of radiologic technologists at clients' sites.

"If you don't get a lot of a certain type of procedure, you get rusty or don't know how to position the patient," Boehm said. "We have guidelines and go though training. It's a collaboration between us, the techs, and the physicians."

Teleradiology services have surged in recent years to close the gap between clinical need and an undersized pool of radiologists. Companies such as publicly held Nighthawk and Virtual Radiologic, which last week filed an initial public offering, have stepped forward. Others, now operating regionally or locally, are waiting in the wings.

Twenty-year-old F&S hails from exactly this background. Its moniker derives from the names of its two founding partners. But rather than just providing coverage as needed, the company decided to offer subspecialty expertise, forging a business model that is expected to remain viable after the need for night, weekend, and day coverage is filled.

The current radiologist shortage exacerbates the difficulty of serving rural areas. That situation is fueling demand for the subspecialty expertise offered by F&S, according to Boehm. Even radiology practices are climbing onboard, she said.

"We make a lot of sense for small practices of four or fewer radiologists," Boehm said. "The volume for a specific procedure might not merit hiring a subspecialty radiologist, but you want to deliver the best possible reports. And that's where we fit in."