For small nonradiology medical offices, digital radiography systems are generally cost-prohibitive. But Phoenix startup VirtuRad hopes to open up this market with a fee-per-use model for digital x-ray systems and Web-based PACS software.
"Many private offices, especially nonradiology private offices, have a notion that digital radiography and PACS have to be multimillion-dollar investments," said founder and chairman Dr. Hirsch Handmaker.
VirtuRad hopes to make filmless imaging a viable prospect for private orthopedic, chiropractic, and radiology offices and clinics of all sizes, using a financing package offered in cooperation with equipment financing firm DVI of Jamison, PA. Based on image volume, the per-use payment would cover the cost of installation, training, software upgrades, service, and image archiving.
Founded in 1999, VirtuRad primarily distributes the ACR-2000 desktop computed radiography reader from Eastman Kodak of Rochester, NY. But the company can also provide CR or DR systems from other vendors for higher-volume applications, Handmaker said.
All user interfaces and communication networks are Windows NT-based, he said. Studies are typically stored onsite, and can be transmitted to other locations for reading or review using Windows NT-based PACS technology provided by undisclosed partners.
In addition to providing technology, VirtuRad is also setting up reading networks to allow chiropractic and radiology customers access to experienced readers for second opinions or primary diagnoses, Handmaker said. At two college football bowl games in 2001, the company set up a remote reading environment in concert with onsite x-ray equipment. VirtuRad advisory board member Dr. Jon Levy and other remote radiologists were ready to review images and provide immediate assessment of any injuries, Handmaker said.
In February, VirtuRad signed an agreement with 3-D and image processing firm AccuImage Diagnostics of South San Francisco, CA, to gain access to that vendor's image "stitching" capability, which will be deployed for orthopedic and chiropractic CR image processing applications. As a result of the deal, VirtuRad can allow its customers to produce full-length, extended x-ray images of the body by matching relevant anatomic landmarks, Handmaker said.
VirtuRad currently has five beta sites, including Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, the Spine Institute of Arizona, and the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic at Southern California University of Health Sciences in Whittier, CA. The firm is selling its services through a combination of direct sales and distributors.
While radiology departments and imaging centers are the highest-profile users of radiographic equipment, plain-film exams are performed in a variety of locations, Handmaker said.
"Radiology is an important part of our business, but it's only a part," he said. "There's a lot of nonradiology plain-film imaging going on, and we believe that this is a way to bring them into a filmless imaging environment," he said.
By Erik L. Ridley
AuntMinnie.com staff writer
March 29, 2002
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