TORONTO – Just over a decade ago, three entrepreneurs from Toronto, opened Diamedx Inc., a small software development company with big ideas. Originally referred to as the “left field cowboys,” they soon established themselves in a “wild west” territory for the transitioning of diagnostic imaging clinics from film based to filmless environments.
The software they created, known as SIMMS, (Secure Image Medical Management Solution) was unique to the community in three ways: The solution was:
• a completely integrated PACS (Picture Archive Communication Solution) and RIS (Radiology Information System), combining all of the administrative and demographic patient information with all of the diagnostic images and previous studies.
• cloud based.
• designed with IHF or clinic workflow (as opposed to hospital) in mind.
According to Rob Goodman, President of SIMMS, “In 2004 the digital era for radiology was established at the hospital level, with ROI being demonstrated, but the micro, small and medium-sized clinics were being ignored. The big players were more concerned with large installations and applications within the hospitals.
“The IHF community just didn’t have that kind of funding to pay for digital transformations. So we began developing our solution. Also, up until five years ago, doctors were extraordinarily apprehensive about storing patient information in the cloud. It was not like today, where servers and hardware minimization are what healthcare providers are concerned with.”
Nearly half of all of the diagnostic studies in Ontario come from Independent Health Facilities, which is a fact that the province is now paying close attention to.
Goodman said, “Over the past two or three years, there has been more emphasis placed on reducing wait times in the hospitals, and there has been a new push to have the IHFs perform more testing services to offload more of the diagnostic work. For the province it’s the equivalent of rediscovering an asset that you already own and taking advantage from some existing infrastructure.”
Approximately 3,000,000 studies per year are delivered and archived within the SIMMS solution in Ontario, from 250 fixed and mobile sites.
When asked what his plans for the rest of Canada are, Goodman said, “We have spoken to some owners in BC and Alberta, and would like to expand into those provinces, but with so much going on here locally, entering more provinces will remain on my to-do list until early next year.”
When asked about what is going on in Ontario, Goodman said, “This year we are working with one of the repositories (HDIRS) to send them a hundred thousand cases per month from 50 SIMMS sites. We are helping our clients become a bigger part of the provincial e-Health initiative and strategy.”
Goodman also said, “Apart from working with HDIRS, we are finishing the integration of our solution with one EMR vendor, and there are two more we are just starting with. Our clients are super-sensitive to the needs of their clients, referring physicians. And the physicians all want easier, faster and more direct access to reports, especially the ones that have adopted new technology.
“On top of that, we are transitioning our clients in Ontario to MCEDT from EDT, polishing up our voice recognition module, which is great for our radiologists and cardiologists, and for our Quebec clients, we are working on a French SIMMS version for 2015.”
For ten years, Diamedx has been operating as SIMMS. When asked why, the President of Diamedx replied, “In 2007 everyone just began calling us SIMMS, based on the product name, so we adopted it.”
In the future, Goodman said, “We keep evaluating and re-evaluating everything south of Canada. The US, Mexico, South America are all on the radar. We just have to replicate down there what we do here, and we know it will be successful.”
Commenting on the environment in which Ontario’s IHFs now operate, Goodman said: “In 2013 and 2014 we saw a real change in the ownership of the diagnostic imaging community clinics. The largest license holder in the country, CML, now Life Labs, divested all of their BC, Alberta, and Ontario clinics. They made 25 or 30 transactions, sold off about 100 locations, and there are probably 25 or 30 new clinic owners across the country.”
The biggest challenges in the coming years, said Goodman, will likely revolve around interoperability and vendor neutrality. “Making systems communicate with each other and connecting all of the healthcare workers to all of the data needed to improve patient care,” he said. “But I think in three to five years the shift in the industry will be focused on patient decisions and information accessibility. Right now, everything is still behind ‘the curtain’ with an emphasis on privacy, security, and confidentiality. I think patient knowledge and options will eventually become more of the norm.”