Clinical cloud computing firm Nephosity (San Francisco, CA, USA) is an example of a company founded around the partnership between an engineer and clinician—as well as the convergence of different disciplines. “We got started in 2010 when I was working at Dreamworks Animation and was looking to do something that was interesting with the cloud computing technologies that were coming out,” says Michael Pan, founder and CEO of the company. His brother John found out his brother’s interest in using the cloud to generate and deliver images and asked if it was possible to apply the technology to medical images. The two sat down and came up with a set of use cases—user stories of how the product would be used and translate into a product known as MobileCT. The two studied the clinical workflow of radiologists and other physicians working with them and identified pain points to address in their product. “For us to get into those hospitals, we’ve had to learn a lot about how the doctors use existing products, how they want to use a product like ours, and how can we bridge that gap,” Michael says.
One of their chief objectives was to overcome the fragmentation often inherent in healthcare systems—especially in the United States. The lack of standard software for electronic health records (EHR) is one complicating factor contributing to this fragmentation, John points out. “When you see your primary care physician, your doctor may have one EHR software and then the hospital you go to may have different EHR software,” John says. “If you need a CT or MRI, your doctor might send you to your neighborhood outpatient imaging center, and that will be on a different PACS system than the one that the hospital has,” he adds. “Even worse, if you needed to go see an orthopedic surgeon or another specialist at a different office, they may have a different system than your primary care doctor has,” he adds. “Even single hospitals sometimes have several different EHRs. There are many different ways of keeping documents in the United States, unlike national systems like in the United Kingdom where all of the records are kept in one place.”
All along, Nephosity has strongly placed a high value on collaboration—both internally at their firm and externally. “The fact that we are brothers and can talk often and [Michael] has been able to kind of see my and other physicians’ workflow has been key,” John says. “With respect to [external] collaboration, the idea is that right now someone who goes and see an orthopedic surgeon, for example, and let’s say their case is very complex and the orthopedic surgeon needs to consult a radiologist, it is very difficult to get three parties in the same room at the same time because the doctors are busy, some of their patients may be travelling hundreds of miles, and so forth,” Michael adds. “The idea is to give them a platform where they can collaborate and be discussing those images and viewing them at the same time so that it provides for a more efficient delivery of care.”
Brian Buntz is the editor-at-large at UBM Canon’s medical group. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.Brian Buntz