What cloud-based file storage Box set out to do for companies in the mid-2000s, a little startup named MedXTwants to do for hospitals and clinics.
The two companies joined cloud-powered forces when Box acquired MedXT last week and are now working together on bringing the health industry to the cloud. The two companies have actually been working together for a year now, but Box’s recent announcement that it wants to get serious about industry bundles made it clear that the two companies should get hitched.
MedXT, which started less than two years ago, is “a big photo-sharing app for healthcare,” as co-founder Cody Ebberson told VentureBeat in an interview. In short, it has created rendering and viewing technology that supports two of the most popular file formats for medical imaging, DICOM and HL7. With MedXT’s tools, doctors and even patients can easily open and view these files, just as they would open a JPEG photo file, for example.
So what exactly does this marriage mean?
Well, obviously MedXT’s technology will be integrated into Box’s storage and sharing services. Although Ebberson declined to share too many details as to how exactly it will work, this will more or less mean that doctors and hospitals that use Box will be able to open, view, and work with medical images saved there, just as they do with traditional, non-cloud based viewers.
This will also open more doors for telemedicine — the diagnosis and treatment via telecommunications tools. Specialists miles and miles away can open MRI scans through Box and diagnose a patient from wherever they are. Remote villages can access expert opinions through some simple file-sharing. Smaller clinics that don’t have a full-time specialist can still help patients in need.
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Actually, it could someday mean that all facilities outsource this to a specialized center, not only making facilities and processes more efficient, but also cutting costs — and everyone wins when you cut costs.
But on the most basic and immediate level, it could decrease the number of providers and programs that facilities have to purchase, use, and manage. That’s pretty much any IT head’s biggest wish.
Patients hugely benefit from these technologies as well. The most obvious gain is that they can now access their own medical imaging files, and much more easily than before. They can say goodbye to the films they don’t have any way to view or the CDs that tend to scratch.
But second opinions are perhaps one of the biggest door cloud-based and consumer-friendly technology like MedXT’s opens. There are virtually no barriers to patients and additional doctors being able to take a look at these digital medical images. Ebberson added that computer vision — computers processing and “understanding” images on their own — could eventually add to second opinions.
On a bigger scale, making medical images available through consumer-friendly cloud-storage is one more step toward making patient records available to them. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, passed in 2009 by the U.S. Congress, has created an incentive for eligible doctors and hospital to digitize their patient records by 2015 and receive “meaningful use” checks for doing so. After that, they’ll be penalized.
But of course, there are still hurdles and kinks. HIPAA compliance, that is, specific security measures for digital documents and communications that the health industry must take, can be tricky to understand and implement, especially for smaller practices. Not all cloud-based tools are currently HIPAA compliant either, making it more difficult for organizations to outfit their practices with new tools.
Even the general acceptance and adoption of cloud technology by the health care industry still has a long way to go. Still, Ebberson is optimistic and says it’s come a long way in the last couple of years.
But new tools and technologies are moving in, and digital files and data are getting more and more attention from the health industry and even patients, a movement we’ll be discussing at HealthBeat a couple of weeks from now.