On Top of the Teleradiology Trend

Through a recent deal made with clinical products developer Visage Imaging Inc, medical imaging service company 3DR Laboratories will offer advanced reading and postprocessing services to hospitals and other health care organizations.

Essentially, Visage will provide terminals and systems for 3DR on a private label basis, and 3DR will use the equipment to offer a variety of bundled services, from workflow consulting to setting up high-speed connectivity.Specifically, the agreement allows 3DR to integrate Visage's Thin Client Server and PACS Server into its product portfolio, thereby enabling it to offer internal and remote advanced 2D, 3D, and 4D services to health care customers. Visage, a subsidiary of Mercury Computer Systems Inc, will receive a percentage of the fees paid by 3DR's clients to use its technology, a cost that varies based on amount of usage and type of equipment operated.

In doing so, the companies hope to provide a time-efficient solution for hospitals that want to ease the pressure on busy radiologic technologists and save on expensive software and hardware.

"Together, our combined technologies will free hospitals and radiology centers to outsource 3D reconstructions of CT and MRI scans, while still allowing staff the ability to further manipulate and distribute studies off of any PC platform," said Robert L. Falk, 3DR founder and medical director. "This approach virtually eliminates the need for costly, on-site 'fat' workstations."

Rather than being bound to a specific workstation, post-processing and distribution are available directly within the PACS workflow anywhere in the hospital or, via the Internet or WAN, anywhere outside the facility.

3DR senior managing director David Ferguson said his company helps relieve radiologic technologists of their burden to perform their own rendering of DICOM files. These health care workers may not be qualified to execute this task, as it requires a whole set of skills for which they are not trained, Ferguson said.

"The Visage Imaging system makes it easy for us to take those DICOM files," Ferguson said. "Instead of putting them in an expensive workstation at the hospital, [technologists or physicians] can load them into a relatively inexpensive server that remains in their network."

Once the customer places the scanned files into the server, 3DR technicians—"super techs," Ferguson lightly ad-ded—can log on from the central laboratory and perform the rendering for a low variable cost without the hospital having to create or spend any major capital budget. Because of 3DR's deal with Visage Imaging, scans remain in the Thin Client Server, which 3DR can access from its computers.

Not only does outsourcing benefit the hosptal, Ferguson said, but it also is a service to patients, who will receive the full attention they deserve from medical staff.

Ferguson added that teleradiology is gaining more and more steam in the hospital industry. 3DR has embraced this phenomenon, he said, and it has seized the opportunity to allow its health care customers to reap its benefits.

"The movement from fat, stand-alone postprocessing workstations to shared, multiuser, thin-client servers is a definite trend in the industry, and we just decided to get ahead of the curve," Ferguson said.

—Elaine Sanchez