RIS developer Sunquest returns to radiology as standalone company

2007 12 12 09 30 02 706

Nearly 30 years after it first began operations, radiology information systems developer Sunquest Information Systems has returned to the imaging market as a standalone company. The firm has revived its flagship radiology product and is banking on a strategy of providing information systems to medical disciplines that form the basis of the emerging field of molecular genomics and personalized medicine.

Founded in 1979, Sunquest was one of the most venerable names in radiology up until 2001, when the company was acquired by U.K. healthcare software developer Misys Healthcare Systems. Misys subsequently merged the company's operations in 2003 with that of another acquisition, Per-Se Technologies' computerized physician order entry (CPOE) business. Misys formed both firms into a new business, creating a new Misys Hospital Systems division.

Unfortunately, Misys had difficulty fitting the new businesses into its long-term corporate strategy. The company released a new version 5.0 of its Sunquest RIS software in December 2006, but a month later the firm's management decided the software would go into "maintenance" mode, with no further updates released.

2007 12 12 09 30 02 706
Richard Atkin, president and CEO of Sunquest Information Systems.

In July 2007, Misys announced that it was planning to sell the business, and in October it announced the completion of the deal, selling the company to Vista Equity Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm that specializes in buying mature software firms. As part of the deal, the Sunquest brand was revived, with former Misys executive Richard Atkin tapped to lead the firm as president and CEO.

The new Sunquest offers information systems in the laboratory, radiology, and pathology market segments. The firm has developed a strategic approach that seeks to take advantage of the increasing integration between these different healthcare disciplines under a broad diagnostics banner. For example, as pathology increasingly moves into the digital realm, there will be more integration between pathology and radiology, and both will begin to share similar clinical workflow, according to Atkin.

"In radiology, we see a lot of capabilities that will play into advanced diagnostics going forward, like molecular genomics testing, which combines images and data from a traditional lab," Atkin said. "When you bring those together, like digital pathology and images, we see the opportunity through this convergence of radiology and digital pathology and molecular genomics testing for Sunquest to participate in the next generation of solutions and the next generation of software moving toward preventive care."

Sunquest announced on November 20 that it will resume development of its flagship RIS product, and the company is in discussions with customers on improvements they would like to see to version 5.0. The firm has reformed its radiology special interest group of customers to formalize the feedback process and resume ties with its installed base. The firm said it has 60 customers using Sunquest Radiology, covering 160 facilities and hospitals.

Sunquest believes that one of the advantages of its approach to RIS is that its software is "agnostic" when it comes to PACS -- users can integrate it with any PACS software via the company's PACS Integration Manager. As a result, sites installing Sunquest RIS don't have to also replace their PACS software.

"That's one of the reasons why our solution was well-liked -- it lets institutions make a PACS decision independent of RIS," Atkin said. Sunquest is still debating whether to develop a higher level of integration with certain PACS providers.

As the company moves forward, it plans to leverage its position at larger hospitals, where over one-third of hospitals with 400 beds and larger run its software. "We feel that strategically the larger institutions are important because they are in the vanguard of developing new solutions," Atkin said.

The company maintains its headquarters in Raleigh, NC, but the majority of its employees, some 400 in number, are based in Tucson, AZ. In addition to Atkin, members of Sunquest's management team include Mike Snow, chief technology officer, and vice president of sales Lisa Cutts, who has been with the company for 17 years. Sunquest also plans to hire additional engineering staff as it resumes development on its RIS.

"In the next 12 months, we're focusing on ensuring we work closely with existing customers and ensuring that Sunquest is recognized as a premier brand," Atkin said. "The first year is rebuilding, but the future is extremely bright for the company."

By Brian Casey
AuntMinnie.com staff writer
December 17, 2007

Related Reading

Sunquest to retarget radiology market, November 21, 2007

Misys to sell diagnostic systems division, July 24, 2007

QuadraMed bids to buy Misys CPR assets, July 24, 2007

Misys awarded EMR contract, June 12, 2007

Misys teams up with Connecticut physician network, June 6, 2007

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