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Returning after a Covid-imposed break, the 2022 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference and Exhibition was the backdrop of several significant product announcements from key players in medical imaging IT. Among them was Intelerad, which chose the event to launch a new enterprise imaging software suite.
Intelerad says its new Enterprise Imaging and Informatics Suite ties together several components from the vendor’s recent acquisitions and will enable secure image sharing, improved workflow efficiencies and enhanced integration with electronic health records (EHRs) to improve image management for radiologists.
The Signify View
Over the past year Intelerad has been rapidly arming itself with new tools. Boosted by the financial clout bestowed upon the vendor following its purchase by HG Capital in early 2020, it has been aggressively pursuing acquisitions. These deals have seen the vendor amass a raft of capability which will form the core components of a rounded out, multi-ology enterprise imaging solution. However, up until HIMSS, there was no clear strategy on how the vendor will bring these disparate tools from several different vendors together.
Last week’s show began to tell that story, offering an initial outline of the solution it is working to develop. As it stands Intelerad is moving carefully, largely in a bid to continue to benefit from the reputations built up by its acquired brands; it is, after all, very hard to win back a lost customer that has become embedded in a competitor’s ecosystem. As such, the vendor has for the time being decided to maintain the branding and feel of the individual components of the products in its enterprise imaging suite.
This light-touch integration, which has resulted in a suite of different brands under the one Intelerad banner is only a temporary solution. Over time Intelerad will follow the lead of several other imaging IT vendors and invest in creating a single, cohesive platform, but the present ‘house-of-brands’ approach will allow Intelerad to service customers in the meantime.
Making Intentions Clear
As importantly, the announcement of its product suite will also signal to Intelerad’s customers its direction of travel. When a solution is relied upon for the efficient operating of a hospital, providers look to their vendors to have roadmaps aligned with their own strategic planning. Providers may not need a fully consolidated multi-ology enterprise imaging solution with advanced AI and cloud capability today, but they need confidence in their vendor selection that such as solution can be adopted in the future. As such, providers will become increasingly unwilling to commit to long and expensive imaging IT contracts with vendors that haven’t at least laid out a roadmap for developing that capability. With imaging IT deals being signed for longer periods, for a provider, a vendor’s future offering is almost as important as its current portfolio.
This focus on future capability means that there is still a lot of work to be done on Intelerad’s part. With providers committing to vendors for longer periods of time, vendors need to show that they are continually innovating and developing for the future. One objective Intelerad must work towards in this regard is the increased integration of the separate tools. Over the coming years Intelerad must fully bring together the constituent elements of its portfolio, if its customers are to enjoy the full benefits of a true, multi-ology enterprise imaging system.
Plugging the Gaps
The corollary to that is that the vendor must also continue to fill the gaps in its portfolio. Through its acquisitions of LumedX, Ambra, Insignia and others, Intelerad has acquired broad capability that will complement its own PACS offering. There are, however, still some obvious gaps. Some, like advanced visualisation and other ‘ologies such as digital pathology, which could be resolved either through partnership or acquisition – which path will be taken remains to be seen. The firm’s longstanding partnership with Blackford Analytics for AI is a prime example of the partnership approach.
With the backing from HG Capital, Intelerad has the means to continue acquiring capability, however the question will be raised on the value of acquisition over partnership. In the instance of AV, white labelling of specialist AV tools and competency is common, so an acquisition may make little business sense. Other areas are less certain. Intelerad will increasingly need to offer advanced AI solutions to its customers to remain relevant, however, with the AI market being so nascent, and the technology changing so quickly, an acquisition near-term looks unwise. Such a move may be warranted in the future, but at present an acquisition represents a commitment to a particular solution far larger than seems sensible or indeed necessary. Furthermore, the Blackford partnership provides core Intelerad customers access to a broad array of AI tools. While there are some difficulties associated with partnerships, they are, in the short to medium term, a pragmatic option for Intelerad, allowing it to offer AI capability to its customers, in an essentially risk-free way.
The imaging IT vendor could alternatively look to develop some capability in house. For AV and AI this is the least practical route, but for cloud capability, developing its new platform cloud-natively will require some intensive R&D investment, especially considering the technical complexities and nuances of its new “house of brands”. Although some cloud expertise and technology assets were brought in-house with the Radius acquisition in 2020, a complete cloud-native platform represents a complex challenge for any vendor, but it is one that must be undertaken. From a provider’s outlook, similarly to enterprise imaging strategies, the importance for vendors currently is to have a clear cloud strategy, outlining the roadmap for cloud-based products and maintaining flexibility to support different customers strategies, whether on-premise, fully hosted cloud or a hybrid approach.
These challenges are not a surprise, nor, for the time being at least, are they causes for concern. Although the vendor’s announcement at HIMSS wasn’t a revolutionary product release, it did clearly signal to Intelerad’s customers that progress is being made on the most important strategic objectives, and the vendor remains a stable supplier, although one that does not dance on imaging IT’s bleeding edge.
This is enough today, and, assuming similar progressive steps continue to be taken, the vendor is positioned well. What’s more, as evidenced at the Floridian show it is also reflective of the broader state of imaging IT.
HIMSS 2022 represented an evolutionary step on from vendors’ offerings at RSNA in December. Many of the key priorities remained the same, with a heavy focus on operational workflow, business intelligence and interoperability, reflected in some of the announcements from GE, Philips and others. More broadly vendors began to offer answers to the question of how data can be brought together across an enterprise. Integrating patient data from sources such as the EMR alongside diagnostic imaging data offers significant potential, and vendors such as Hyland have begun to show solutions that facilitate this kind of integration.
These, and other similar plays, offer a glimpse of the true potential of the use of data in healthcare. Rather than looking retrospectively to assess the past performance of an imaging department within a wider hospital network, vendors are making headway on solutions that offer analytics which are proactive and predictive, drawing out actional insight and useable suggestions to support providers. This centralisation of data is still in its relative infancy, but, as seen at HIMSS, the appreciation of the value of data is increasing and the first foundations are being put in place.
…To Dizzying Peaks
HIMSS, like RSNA 2021 before it, was a somewhat smaller and quieter affair compared to previous years, but also like RSNA, the show’s return brought with it a renewed vigour and focus. Vendors at the show can see the dizzying peaks of possibility that new technologies offer, but their expeditions have only just started, and they have barely left the foothills.
On a smaller scale the same is true for Intelerad. It has amassed many of the components it needs to be successful and will have no doubt made plans to bring on board those which are not yet in its clutches. It has begun the process of integration of these components and signalled its future direction to reassure customers of its commitment to their enterprise imaging objectives. And, as a trump card, its capital backers mean that it is ready to further add to its ranks with another strategic acquisition should the opportunity arise.
Intelerad is, in short, comfortably placed. If it can continue to demonstrate that it is steadily progressing, there is no reason to doubt its ability to realise its vision.
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This Insight is part of your subscription to Signify Premium Insights – Medical Imaging. This content is only available to individuals with an active account for this paid-for service and is the copyright of Signify Research. Content cannot be shared or distributed to non-subscribers or other third parties without express written consent from Signify Research. To view other recent Premium Insights that are part of the service please click here