DICOM Grid rebrands as Ambra with eye on VNA market

By Erik L. Ridley, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

September 13, 2016 -- Cloud-based software developer DICOM Grid has changed its name to Ambra Health and announced plans to grow from its roots as a provider of image exchange technology into a full-fledged participant in the burgeoning vendor-neutral archive (VNA) sector.

Ambra is an Italian word for amber, long purported to possess healing properties. Similarly, the company sees itself as providing technology that can help cure what ails the healthcare system, providing a cloud-based VNA platform that can handle both DICOM and non-DICOM images and break down barriers between different types of image management components, said CEO Morris Panner.

"Whether you're a physician or patient, oddly everybody has the same frustration of being unable to get information that really should be at your fingertips," Panner said.

Beyond DICOM images

DICOM Grid got its start as an image exchange firm, and more than 750 healthcare providers currently use the Ambra Health network to share images; each month, more than 750,000 users from over 50 countries log in to the network, according to the firm.

Recent new customers include Stanford Children's Health in Palo Alto, CA; Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City; Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, MA; Jefferson Radiology in Connecticut; New England Baptist Hospital in Boston; and CareWell Urgent Care in Massachusetts.

Morris Panner
Morris Panner, CEO of DICOM Grid.

While DICOM image management and transmission remain an important aspect of the company, conversations with customers helped the firm realize it could also address their larger image management challenges, Panner said. The expanded platform will now be able to handle other imaging types besides DICOM images.

"That is very important because people are looking to not only combine radiological images, but other [image types] as well," he told AuntMinnie.com. "And they want to be able to have the capability to bring all of those types of documents into the patient health record smoothly, so we're going to do that."

In addition, Ambra will also support Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) Cross-Enterprise Document Sharing (XDS) and other interoperability standards, he said.

"This lets you to start to create registries around data accessibility and availability," he said. "That means you're no longer focused on data types as much as you are on being able to pull information, irrespective of the underlying data type. And that's part of the XDS architecture that we're rolling out as well."

The VNA market is an active space. Ambra believes its cloud-based architecture will be a crucial differentiating factor, however, over its competitors, according to Panner.

"Everyone else is used to people building for an onsite vendor-neutral world," he said. "What we're really coming out and saying is that you've got to reconceptualize the world as no longer a single hospital or a single entity. You're going to span multiple institutions and multiple care scenarios, and there's no real way to do that without enabling the cloud architecture."

Ambra also believes its platform will break down the barriers between what has been traditionally been regarded as different image management components.

"There has always been a little bit of an artificial distinction between PACS, VNA, viewers, and image exchange," he said. "What we're doing with a single platform is bringing all of that capability together. So you're going to see us in a unique way be able to provide a [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] 510(k)-cleared viewer that lets you access images from anywhere, and at the same time gives you the workflow rules to share and move [the images] in a way that you need to accomplish your goal or business objectives as a healthcare institution."

New funding

Ambra's growth plans will also be aided by $6 million in new funding from venture firm Canaan Partners. The company has now received total funding of $39 million since its inception. The latest funds will be used to support an expansion in sales and marketing as well as to accelerate product development, Ambra said.

As part of these plans, the company intends to hold a series of online and in-person educational events to discuss challenges and trends in enterprise imaging and interoperability. The first of these will be held September 29 in New York City.

The firm has also hired Ed Marshall as chief product officer. Marshall comes to Ambra after serving as senior vice president and general manager of the services industry business unit at NetSuite, a professional services automation technology provider. He was also vice president of sales and marketing at OpenAir prior to its acquisition by NetSuite and has been a management consultant at Bain and Company and an engineer at General Electric.

Ambra also plans to expand internationally, Panner said. The firm started in the U.K. and is working on expanding its presence in Asia. It also has a presence in Brazil.


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