QRS Diagnostic makes high-tech medicine more accessible with its patented medical device technology

Minneapolis 07 January 2004The 325.000 primary care physicians in the United States are on the front lines contending with the central challenge of the health care system: providing quality care at an affordable cost. They need convenient, reliable and reasonably priced devices for diagnostic testing and patient monitoring. Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Plymouth, Minnesota, QRS Diagnostic designs and develops software-based medical devices, built into computer cards, which cost 25 percent to 50 percent less than traditional device products.

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"QRS is a medical device company that thinks and acts like an information technology company", stated Spencer Lien, founder and chief executive officer, QRS. "We apply our patented technology to convert standard computing devices, like laptops and PDAs, into portable, upgradeable and affordable medical devices."

Grappling with government and managed care payment constraints, primary care physicians - those in general practice, family practice, paediatrics and internal medicine - must uphold quality while managing costs. To cover practice overhead and maintain their incomes, they strive to see more patients per day. If they could readily and effectively perform more diagnostic tests in their own offices, primary care physicians could maximize the clinical value of office visits, improve quality, and enhance convenience for patients. They could also reduce costs and increase their share of revenues by performing tests for many patients themselves, instead of always referring them to specialists. And, instant access to test results enables primary care physicians to communicate more effectively with specialists when they do refer their patients for a consultation.

Yet, many primary care physicians still do not perform diagnostic procedures such as spirometry and electrocardiography. Why? Most medical devices are not designed for primary care physicians. They are too cumbersome, too complex, and too costly.

QRS uses its innovative technology to design and develop medical devices that streamline and simplify the collection, interpretation and communication of precise physiological data. QRS enables primary care physicians to cost-effectively practise high-tech medicine while delivering the accuracy that specialists and hospitals demand. The company focuses on the unmet needs of primary care physicians while offering cost-effective device alternatives for hospitals as well as the approximately 50.000 specialists in the United States who practise cardiovascular medicine.

QRS holds two patents on the design of medical devices contained in Type II (PCMCIA) PC Cards and Compact Flash (CF) Cards for Windows CE-based handhelds and Pocket PCs, including the HP iPAQ. "We build the intelligence of physiological data acquisition and analysis into computer cards", explained Spencer Lien. "QRS computer cards, with integrated sensors such as electrode leads for EKGs, slide right into off-the-shelf laptops, Pocket PCs and PDAs. This makes them work as fully functioning medical devices, and that is the key to the mobility and affordability of our products."

Portability, as well as affordability, is an advantage. In the offices of primary care physicians, it is often infeasible or too costly to maintain dedicated procedure rooms for bulky, stand-alone diagnostic testing machines. Physicians can carry QRS devices in their lab coat pockets. Because they are software-based, QRS devices are not only mobile but easily upgradeable, which reduces long-term device costs. Moreover, QRS eliminates the need to purchase and support separate, stand-alone machines for different diagnostic procedures, since a single laptop or PDA can support all QRS computer card devices.

"With QRS, I was able to buy two computer card devices, for spirometry and electrocardiography, for less than the price of an EKG machine", stated Patrick O'Malley, D.O., O'Malley Family Medicine, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. "When I want to monitor a patient's heart or test their lung function, for initial diagnosis or follow-up, it is easy to do myself. I just plug the QRS card into my notebook PC. It is simple and fast. And, I don't have to wheel in a big, unwieldy machine to do the tests."

Spirometry is essential in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. According to the American Lung Association, about 12 million Americans have COPD, and asthma afflicts an estimated 20 million to 25 million people in the United States. SpiroCard from QRS Diagnostic is a software-based spirometer contained in a computer card. Weighing less than two ounces, SpiroCard is the smallest and lightest spirometer on the market. Yet, SpiroCard exceeds the accuracy standards of the American Thoracic Society (ATS), and independent testing has verified that SpiroCard is actually more precise than spirometers that are more expensive.

"SpiroCard offers frontline physicians a useful, reasonably priced way to practise state-of-the-art medicine", stated Patrick Zook, M.D., St. Cloud Medical Group, Saint Cloud, Minnesota. "SpiroCard from QRS Diagnostic was my first choice because of its accuracy, flexibility, mobility and ease-of-use, and affordability", stated Tom Mayer, C.R.T., C.P.F.T, director of the Lung Health Clinic at Academic Medicine Inc., a seven-physician group practice in Kirksville, Montana. "With its reasonable price, SpiroCard enabled me to get our lung health clinic started with very low overhead costs."

OxiCard is QRS Diagnostic's pulse oximeter that provides instant, non-invasive measurement of pulse rates and oxygen saturation in the blood. The device is built into a Compact Flash (CF) Card and weighs only 2,4 ounces. SpirOxCard is the only combination spirometer/pulse oximeter. It measures pulmonary function and monitors blood oxygenation with one convenient device contained entirely in a computer card.

Nick Ausaf, D.O., Lakefront Center for Family Medicine, Sebring, Florida, uses SpirOxCard in his practice. "To meet patient expectations and provide quality care, I want to utilize diagnostic tools, like spirometry, that are appropriate today for primary care, but I must also control overhead costs", he stated. "QRS offers the affordable, high-quality technology solution for diagnostic testing that I envisioned for my new practice, and their computer card devices have proven to be reliable and easy to use."

Universal ECG is a lightweight, portable, 12-channel diagnostic electrocardiograph device, a critical tool in the diagnosis and treatment of heart problems, including Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), which affects nearly 5 million Americans. "It is so fast and easy to perform EKGs with the QRS card that I have no need for a technician. Patients appreciate that it takes only a few minutes to put on the leads and run the test", stated Sam Sugar, M.D., Sunrise Lifestyle Centers, LLC, Northbrook, Illinois. "For a small to moderate-size practice, it is an excellent choice for office-based diagnostic electrocardiography."

Another physician who finds Universal ECG to be the right solution for primary care is Steven Mussey, M.D., Mussey, Sarber and Associates, P.C., an internal medicine practice in Fredericksburg, Virginia. "We were trying to find a heart monitor we could afford, and the price of Universal ECG was far better than a stand-alone machine", he stated. "I just plug the card into my laptop, attach the leads, and get accurate results."

QRS continues to employ its patented technology platform to expand its product line. QRS will release its BPCard blood pressure device in 2004. VitalsCard, which integrates blood pressure, body temperature, pulse oximetry is in development.

Office Medic, a patient information management system that delivers real-time diagnostic testing, complements QRS medical devices. With QRS computer card devices, Office Medic provides caregivers with the flexibility and mobility to perform accurate diagnostic tests on any standard desktop or laptop. Test data is acquired and accessible in seconds at the point of care. The software allows full on-screen viewing of real-time graphs and reports and provides easy access to automatically stored records.

Office Medic International enables physicians worldwide to take advantage of QRS medical devices and patient information management software. It offers seven language choices: King's English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese (Portugal), and Portuguese (Brazilian).

Office Medic Integrated Data Management System (IDMS) provides the full advantages of a network solution. It is a patient information management system that provides real-time diagnostic testing, centralized digital data storage, rapid report retrieval and data sharing, and remote connectivity. With Microsoft SQL Server 2000, Office Medic IDMS turns clients on a network into full-function medical devices simply by sliding a QRS computer card device into an existing network workstation. Physicians and nurses can perform tests on any standard client and then access and analyse the results from anywhere on the network.

Office Medic also interfaces with electronic medical record systems (EMRs) to offer added functionality and value for physicians. QRS has partnered with Amicore, Andover, Massachusetts, to interface with Amicore Clinical Management, a comprehensive clinical work flow and EMR solution. "We use Amicore Clinical Management and QRS devices to automate administrative and clinical tasks in our practice", stated Robert Hughes, M.D., Primary Care Medical Center, a seven-physician group practice in Murray, Kentucky. "With the interface, we will achieve even greater increases in productivity."

Today, the mobility, reliability and affordability of QRS devices also advance diagnostic testing and patient monitoring for disease management and home health care. According to Barb Johnston, R.N., clinical nurse specialist, Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles, California, "the devices developed by QRS Diagnostic provide an opportunity for improving disease management for patients with asthma, CHF, COPD and other conditions."

Texas Children's Hospital (TCH), Houston, is an internationally recognized, full-service paediatric hospital, the largest in the United States. The lung transplant programme at TCH uses SpiroCard and Office Medic to remotely monitor patients' post-transplant lung function after the children return home. "Decreased pulmonary function is an early, and critical, indicator of possible graft malfunction", stated George B. Mallory, M.D., programme director. "At-home spirometry with digital data storage, remote monitoring and automated communication ensures follow-up care."

With the basic soundness of the company's business strategy and the strength of its patented medical device technology, QRS Diagnostic is moving forward. QRS ranks 25th among Minnesota's fastest growing technology companies, according to the Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 50 programme. The Fast 50 rankings are based on percentage growth in revenues from 1998 to 2002. QRS achieved 300 percent revenue growth over the past five years.

"To rank on the Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 50, companies must have phenomenal revenue growth in the five-year period", stated Ron Hafner, Deloitte & Touche partner. "QRS Diagnostic has proven to be one of the fast-growth success stories in Minnesota, and we applaud their success and vision." More QRS Diagnostic news is available in the VMW March 2003 article Amicore partners with QRS Diagnostic and launches integrated clinical and practice management software.


Leslie Versweyveld

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