Merge Healthcare announces a new teleradiology product and service offering

Milwaukee 20 November 2007Merge Technologies Incorporated, d.b.a. Merge Healthcare, a medical imaging software and services provider, has introduced a new teleradiology software application, Merge TeleRead, and an innovative service offering, Consult PreReads. A Consult PreRead is a consulting service that provides a preliminary report of a medical imaging study - prepared and revised by two different offshore radiologists - producing a detailed report that a United States radiologist may consult and utilize to prepare his or her official final diagnostic report. The report includes references to prior studies, relevant patient clinical information or data requested in the radiology order, and extensive measurements of relevant and incidental pathology and associated key images. The company plans to begin offering the Merge TeleRead application and Consult PreRead service to its customers in the first quarter of 2008.

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The Consult PreRead is designed to provide another level of quality control and assuredness for the official final diagnostic report, which Merge's radiology group customers' licensed United States radiologists are responsible for preparing, while enhancing the productivity of the United States reading radiologist. In essence, upon completion of the official read by the United States radiologist, the medical imaging study has been triple-read before it goes back to the referring physician from the United States radiologist.

"In addition to this innovative new service, we believe that most teleradiology service companies do not have the technology to easily provide patient history and the relevant prior studies required to support the teleradiology final read business", stated Kenneth D. Rardin, President and CEO. "The teleradiology services industry has been struggling with the technology to support the complex final read business. Merge TeleRead, our new proprietary teleradiology solution is scheduled to be released for production in Q1 '08, supports this complex environment by providing access to current studies, prior studies, prior reports and relevant current and historical patient information", stated Kenneth Rardin. "I believe that Merge TeleRead provides the 'secret sauce' to allow Merge and our customers to successfully enter this multi-billion dollar industry."

"I have been in radiology for over twenty years, and I believe that this is an industry-changing capability", stated Steven Mendelsohn, MD, a United States based radiologist who has been a clinical advisor in the Merge Teleradiology clinical beta tests. "I am impressed with the work flow and technology, and the medical acumen, technical accuracy and communication skills of the offshore radiologists. I am confident that this is the impetus for a new way of doing business and improving clinical efficacy in radiology."

Merge is demonstrating its Consult PreRead service and its Merge TeleRead software at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois. Merge will initially offer its teleradiology services to existing Merge Healthcare Fusion RIS and Fusion RIS/PACS customers, but intends to offer these services to users of non-Merge RIS and RIS/PACS customers in the near future. RIS refers to Radiology Information Systems and PACS refers to Picture Archiving and Communication Systems.

"Our ongoing evaluation of the medical image reading market and the teleradiology services that have been established to help augment United States radiological services indicates that there is a strong need and demand for innovative solutions to improve quality of patient care and help to increase radiology productivity. This is based on a decreasing supply of radiologists relative to demand, the increasing need for health care services in an aging population and the incredible growth of medical imaging technology and associated imaging services", stated Kenneth Rardin. "Merge's ability to combine our unique and innovative RIS/PACS technology with our new Merge TeleRead module and our quality control and customer operations centres located in Atlanta, Georgia and Pune, India, along with experienced offshore radiologists and transcriptionists, will give us a unique capability to provide our customers a complete solution offering, designed to help our customers improve both quality of patient care and the productivity of radiology operations."

"Apart from demographic shifts and technological evolution, Consult PreReads are beneficial for purely practical reasons", added Gary Bowers, President, Merge Healthcare North America. "There are many times when imaging centres are faced with study backlogs or they need to balance the workload when radiologists are on vacation", he stated. "Furthermore, radiology practices are seeing increasingly high volumes of complex studies, such as cancer cases and those requiring extensive measurements; studies that can be very time consuming. By accessing Consult PreReads, our customers should be able to improve quality and accelerate the turnaround time of the final reports performed by the United States-based radiologists and delivered to referring physicians. Also, because the Consult PreRead transcribed report is provided to the United States-based radiologist, overall transcription costs should be reduced."

Gary Bowers also stated: "In situations where our customers are expanding into the teleradiology service business, Merge's innovative TeleRead technology will allow our customers to leverage automation to streamline the distribution of images and relevant clinical data to provide a comprehensive interpretation of the current study while reducing the labour and minimizing the error prone process of traditional teleradiology services. Therefore, radiology practices can focus on delivering teleradiology services and not on the distractions associated with the administration and labour of the teleradiology service."

Merge Healthcare is well positioned to diversify its portfolio into the teleradiology Consult PreRead service by virtue of its extensive experience in the development of RIS, PACS and integrated work flow solutions. The Consult PreRead service itself is tightly integrated with Merge's Fusion RIS and RIS/PACS technologies, which are built around a multi-site distributed work flow model that is designed to enable Merge to provide a seamless work flow for Fusion RIS and Fusion RIS/PACS customers. In contrast, typical teleradiology work flow usually requires many manual steps and significant data entry that can slow work flow and increase the likelihood of human error.

Integration of the Consult PreRead service with the new Merge TeleRead solution and the Fusion RIS and RIS/PACS products will create a seamless link through which Merge's offshore radiologist consultants become a valuable resource within the United States customers' work flow. All that should be required for a current Fusion RIS/PACS customer to benefit from Merge's teleradiology service is a remote installation of the new Merge TeleRead module to connect their system to the Consult PreRead service.

Studies that radiology groups want to send out for Consult PreReads are simply placed in a special teleradiology worklist that is located within a customer's Fusion RIS worklists. These studies can be routed automatically through work flow routing rules, or else radiologists or technologists can merely click on the cases they want to send out for review. The Merge TeleRead module seamlessly manages the transmission of these images and information to the United States-based Merge RIS/PACS Teleradiology data centre for distribution to our remote reading centres. For example, when a radiologist signs off for the day, he or she can forward all received studies to Merge TeleRead until they next log on to the RIS. Or they can auto-route all studies over a specified period of time - for example, from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. - to Merge TeleRead. These studies can go through an overnight Consult PreRead and be ready and waiting for the radiologist in the morning.

The Consult PreRead is an intensive activity, involving prescreening, reviewing historical patient information, reviewing prior studies, selection of key images, measurements, annotations, and generation of a detailed report. "Our Merge reading staff in Pune, India, includes highly qualified and experienced radiologist consultants", stated Mukul Mutatkar, M.D., Merge's India-based Medical Director and Chief Consultant Radiologist. "Each diagnostic study is reviewed independently by two radiologists before transmission of the in-depth reading and marked key images that comprise the Consult PreRead report."

"The process involves the review of relevant prior studies and patient information", Dr. Mutatkar continued, "while the report is designed to include comprehensive analysis and measurements of all clinical findings, whether these findings are relevant or are purely incidental to the requested review."

The finished Consult PreRead report and key images appear in the designated United States-based radiologist's worklist queue within minutes of the completion of the Consult PreRead in India. The United States licensed radiologist at the customer site then performs a complete official final read and issues a signed report to the referring physician.

Merge's teleradiology service has incorporated Teleradiology Practice Analysis functionality in the Fusion RIS. This unique capability allows Merge to perform real-time tracking of customer studies in the Merge system, to analyse radiologist deliverables, and to track and measure quality of performance indicators. Merge's Medical Quality Improvement Board, which is chaired by a board certified and United States licensed radiologist, will use this information in monitoring the quality of the company's services.

Merge Healthcare's innovative software solutions use leading-edge imaging software technologies that accelerate market delivery for its OEM customers, while its end-user solutions improve its customers' productivity and enhance the quality of patient care they provide. More company news is available in the VMW October 2006 article Merge eMed releases Fusion RIS Version 3.1 of business and clinical work flow solution.


Leslie Versweyveld

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