Medical image archive company teams with Sun to help hospitals manage millions of X-rays

November 15, 2002

2 Min Read
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By using digital archiving, two-year-old medical imaging firm TeraMedica Inc. is aiming to solve a problem every healthcare organization has: storing vast amounts of film generated from medical images.

It's a big problem, the company says. U.S. healthcare providers perform more than 350 million diagnostic-imaging procedures a year, including CT scans, cardiology images, MRIs, and ultrasounds, among many other kinds of X-rays and scans.

The Milwaukee-based startup wants to replace all these pieces of film with computer images that can be stored on disk. By digitally archiving these images, a healthcare organization can cut its costs by up to 60 percent, TeraMedica says, because they won't have to buy, handle, or store film anymore.

"The rapid retrieval of medical records is an important factor in the quality of patient care," says Bill Burns, TeraMedica's VP of marketing and sales. "Medical image management is becoming a mission-critical application in hospitals."

In order to round out its offering, TeraMedica has partnered with Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) to integrate Sun's shared file system, QFS, and archival system software, SAM-FS, into its software for the storage management piece of the pie."We needed a file system that could funnel down images and deliver them to different places, while keeping all the data intact and protected," says Lance Michel, director of software development at TeraMedica.

For example, each image that's part of a CT scan, which has roughly 3,000 separate images, has to be taken from the device, described, stored, and then delivered to potentially thousands of places in a hospital -- in seconds. "This stuff eats storage like it's going out of style," Michel says.

TeraMedica's software acts as a traffic cop, distributing data to all the other systems a hospital might already have in place. It also acts as a buffer between Sun's file system and storage arrays from other vendors, letting users integrate the software with existing storage devices.

A large U.S. hospital, which expects to have 800 Tbytes of storage over the next five years, is implementing TeraMedica's software to improve the operation of its cardiology and radiology departments. The hospital requested to not be named in this article [ed. note: St. Buttafuoco's?].

"They liked the fact that our products allow all departments to access the electronic images," says Michel. Other companies, he notes, such as GE and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), sell medical imaging products, but they are focused on systems purely for cardiology or radiology departments, not the whole healthcare enterprise.One thing TeraMedica is still on the lookout for, which it hasn't found from Sun, is a journaling file system, in order to improve its ability to trace and track files. "SAM-FS can do journaling but at a dramatic cost to performance, and right off the bat, that hurts us," says Michel. He looked at IBM Corp.

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