Merge Uses IBM Rational Tools to Build Medical Imaging Software

Merge Healthcare is rolling out Cedara WebAccess, which enables medical professionals and patients to view digital medical images via any Web browser on any Web-enabled device, such as laptops to smartphones, including the Apple iPod. Merge built Cedara WebAccess with the help of tools IBM Rational acquired when it bought Telelogic this year for $745 million.

Health care professionals for years have been pushing for more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly ways to access their medical images.

The days of paper reports and film are slowly giving way to new computer-based digital imaging capabilities. However, most of these processes require systems especially made for receiving the images-ranging from X-rays to CT scans to MRIs-or computers with the capability of handling large downloads.

The result can be systems that are expensive to buy and maintain, with the patient data being kept on computers being handled by doctors and nurses, said Peter Bascom, vice president of engineering at Merge Healthcare, a company that specializes in medical imaging software and services. It also drives up the need for greater computer storage capacity.

Merge has come out with a solution designed to offer medical professionals an efficient and fast way of accessing the digital medical images while increasing the security around the data. The company in November rolled out Cedara WebAccess, a Web-based solution that lets doctors and nurses view medical images from any device that has Internet access and a Web browser.

It's also done in a thin-client environment: The medical image is housed on a secure, back-end server-either at the client's site or hosted by Merge-and secured through the Internet device, whether it's a PC, laptop or Web-enabled PDA, which Bascom said makes the setup more secure and easier to manage. It also eliminates the need to rapidly grow storage capacity.

"Using any browser-we let you use [Google's] Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox-you can access the image," he said. "There's no install [of any software] necessary on the client machine. All you need is an account on the server. ... The underlying theme is being able to gain access to the images anywhere."

Merge announced Cedara WebAccess Nov. 25, then showed it off the week of Dec. 1 at the Radiological Society of North America conference in Chicago.

The move came a few weeks after Merge introduced Merge Mobile for the iPhone, an application that lets medical professionals and patients view digital medical images on their Apple iPhone or iPod Touch. Cedara WebAccess expands that capability to all Web-enabled devices, including PDAs that compete with the iPhone.