U.S. teleradiology demonstration leads to Middle East site plans

April 6, 1994

RStar provides technology to sister MGH susidiaryThe health minister of the United Arab Emirates was delightedwhen radiologists at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital senthim a written interpretation of a chest x-ray only 10 minutesafter

RStar provides technology to sister MGH susidiary

The health minister of the United Arab Emirates was delightedwhen radiologists at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital senthim a written interpretation of a chest x-ray only 10 minutesafter receiving the image from a hospital in Abu Dhabi, 9000 milesaway. In fact, the teleradiology demonstration held in the UAEin February so impressed Ahmed Saeed Al Badi that he plans toestablish five telemedicine sites in his country.

The UAE will be the first customer of American TelemedicineInternational, a wholly owned subsidiary of MGH that bills itselfas the world's first global telemedicine network. Incorporatedin 1993, ATI offers customers round-the-clock access to physicianspecialists and also provides systems integration, equipment andnetworking as needed. Customers can also tap into continuing medicaleducation programs at MGH and Harvard Medical School.

Specialists at MGH are already part of the network, and otheracademic medical centers have expressed interest in participating,said Mitch Creem, ATI's vice president for business developmentand finance.

Accessing the international market, especially the Middle East,will be an important part of ATI's game plan, he said. To thatend, ATI has teamed up with WellCare, a Paris-based company withhealth-care marketing expertise in the Middle East.

"There are a number of developing countries that can affordto purchase state-of-the-art equipment but don't have the necessarytraining or expertise to interpret images generated by those technologies,"said Mark Goldberg, vice president of operations and medical directorat ATI. "A large number of patients in those countries aresent overseas for care. And many of these countries are lookingfor ways to keep more patients at home by enhancing services thatcan be delivered locally."

In addition to Middle Eastern countries, Argentina, Braziland Chile are target markets, Creem said. Remote medical services,such as teleradiology, are a way for national markets upgradingtheir health-care systems to gain quick access to higher levelsof specialty care. ATI also plans to market to rural areas inthe U.S.

While declining to say specifically what ATI charges for professionalservices, Creem said that prices are geared to fit the economicsituation in each market.

"We do market research into each target country, and wehave a fairly good idea of market prices," he said. "Wehave to be competitive and that's the driving factor behind (our)technology development."

Another factor keeping costs low is that ATI uses regular phonelines to transmit radiographs, Creem said. For example, x-rayssent during the February demonstration in the UAE were transmittedfor as little as $5 to $15 per image.

Cambridge-based RStar, another MGH for-profit spinoff (SCAN4/7/93), furnished the teleradiology system, which makes use ofa wavelet compression technique developed by Aware, a mathematicalengineering company also based in Cambridge.