- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2000

Radiology.com of Chantilly has parlayed the technology of magnetic resonance imaging into an on-line business opportunity. Founder Robert Lufkin, M.D., chief of Head and Neck Radiology, University of California at Los Angeles, registered the name in 1993 when he realized the potential impact the Internet could have on the medical industry.

Today, Radiology.com is part of iWeb Corp. (www.iweb.com), a publicly traded Los Angeles-based Internet business incubator that focuses on start-up and emerging businesses.

"We are at a point now where technology and business models can easily be flowed to combine the business and clinical logic together to give the radiologist, referring physicians who treat patients and the patients themselves the ability to long-term manage medical images," said Fred Goeringer, chief technology officer, Radiology.com.

Mr. Goeringer also said, "78 percent of the health care market is digitally underserved because of the investment barriers to entry for the individual imaging center."

Mr. Goeringer works with a 12-person team that enables more than 3,500 imaging centers and small hospitals to participate in digital medical imaging through an affordable, pay-as-needed approach.

The concept of the company is simple. Instead of storing oversized, hard-copy films and other images such as sonograms and CT scans on shelves in offices of warehouses, it saves them within the virtually unlimited and inexpensive expanse of cyberspace as digitized files.

This electronic archive not only allows images to be stored for an unlimited amount of time, but also allows for simple retrieval of films that might become necessary for improved health care, particularly as people age.

"I was just speaking with an individual, and they had a very common story," said Barry A. Culman, president and chief executive officer. "He has a problem with his lungs and having access to an X-ray taken 20 years ago would be very helpful. Unfortunately, he has no idea where it is."

Radiology.com may even improve health care as it allows a cost-effective way for patients to own and know where their images are at all times, an important factor when an individual might be seeking opinions from multiple specialists.

"The images will be instantly available within an individual's password-protected area for a period of two to four months, and viewable by any physician who knows the password," Mr. Culman said. "After the initial storage time has passed, those films are still available within a matter of minutes from the Web site."

Another advantage of digitized and electronically stored files is the reduction in the cost of taking and storing hard-copy films.

"The studies show that it costs $16 per study to purchase the film, move it around and store the film for a legally required period of seven years," Mr. Culman said. "Our goal is to bring that cost down to $4 to $8 per series for permanent storage of a digitized image."

For the physician, from the radiologist associated with the multiple-location imaging center to the individual orthopedic specialist, Radiology.com also is creating a solution to bring digitized and electronically stored images to the office. The firm will bring in the equipment necessary to store the films electronically, providing the medical personnel with the information and training they need.

"Our plan is to go to the centers and set them up," Mr. Culman said. "A doctor's office, chiropractor or orthopedist that normally needs to take the most common type of images of a limb or spine would require about $25,000 worth of equipment, while a medium-sized imaging service with multiple locations that takes 150,000 different images from X-rays to MRIs to sonograms needs about $750,000 worth of equipment."

Within its turnkey plan, the only cost to the independent office or imaging center will be the one-time fee required to initially store the film.

Considering the $6-per-series cost to initially store the images, for a medium-sized center storing 150,000 series per year, that realizes a revenue of $900,000 per year, per user, for the company. With Radiology.com's early market entry, the company has a chance to establish long-term dominance.

Another positive part of Radiology.com for the physician and imaging center is the chance to benefit from the Internet portal's aggressive branding program.

"Following some funding, we anticipate spending in excess of $100,000 per month for sales, marketing and brand awareness," Mr. Culman said.

Getting groups signed up will be done one on one initially with the hope being that the dollars spent for market awareness combined with the common-sense benefits of digital film storage soon will spur centers, doctors and hospitals calling them.

"The plan is to create a package for the radiologist that they cannot afford to turn down," Mr. Culman said. "There is no reason for that person to say no."

Have an interesting site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Business Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (joseph@twtmail.com).

Site of the Week: Radiology.com

Site address: www.radiology.com

Creator: iWeb Corp.

Recommended user group: Radiologists, referring physicians and patients who are having any type of imaging study done from ultrasounds to cardiology MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging).

What's to Like? For the patient, at Radiology.com one can create and access a personal account to store X-rays for about $2 per film study. They are always available and can be printed out easily. The site presently is light on consumer information, but plans include adding information on treatments, terminology and other information the patient needs to stay informed.

What's Not to Like? Searches of multiple ZIP codes for the District, Virginia and Maryland did not turn up any participating imaging centers or radiologists. Because the company has just gotten started, this is not necessarily surprising but a bit disappointing to not be able to take advantage of this great service right away.

Plenty of links to go around: From the directories, file users can access Web resources like:

The Basics of MRI (www.cis.rit.edu/htbooks/mri) featuring the work of Joseph P. Hornak, Ph.D., which explains everything about MRIs and includes a glossary, list of symbols and reference list.

Radiologists.com (www.radiology.com) provides links to resources for physicians in radiology and people who have questions regarding procedures or diagnoses.

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