In his years as a hospital-based radiographic technologist and later as an integration specialist at imaging solutions provider IDX Systems Corp., Kyle Lawton noticed one key flaw in the way imaging solutions are traditionally developed: “They interview customers about requirements, then go back and build an application that is hard-wired,” Lawton says. “But if that customer or other customers want to do something that wasn’t defined in those requirements, they are out of luck.”
As PACS [picture archiving and communications systems] systems were becoming digital, Lawton, along with co-founder Eric Heath, saw an opening to develop a new software development methodology that is more configurable and not based on specific requirements. Their company, Sarasota, Fla.-based peerVue Inc., helps customers solve workflow gaps in radiology. One of the first solutions it developed involves peer review. It helps imaging departments ensure that quality assurance/peer review processes are performed, tracked, and analyzed, and that the information that comes out of that process feeds a continuous performance improvement cycle.
The company, launched in 2002, was successful with its peer review solution, but it got a big boost in 2005 when the Joint Commission included critical test results management tracking as part of accreditation requirements. “That was a huge change for us,” Lawton says. “When customers asked us whether they could use our system to do other things besides peer review, the answer was always yes. Erik Heath was such an expert in system integration that once we integrated a customer’s RIS and PACS, they could do more things without having to re-integrate.” (Heath, peerVue’s chief technology officer, passed away in 2012.)
When they face new requirements such as tracking emergency department imaging discrepancies, hospitals’ initial reaction is to build a work-around in the PACS. When that doesn’t work well, they consider purchasing systems. But it can be an expensive proposition to buy and deploy multiple separate systems. “We can do all of it from within one system,” Lawton says.
He adds that the company’s name has sometimes worked against it because people can think it just does peer review, when in fact it does much more. In 2010 peerVue launched QICS (Qualitative Intelligence and Communication System), a Web-based technology platform that helps providers engage, analyze data, alert users and facilitate workflow at every point throughout the exam life cycle. “We are trying to create a new category of system,” Lawton says — a platform with a rules engine as the brains and a customizable front end to run the imaging department’s business rules.”
The company now has more than 25 employees, is integrated into more than 15 PACS systems, and is used at more than 250 sites.
One of its imaging systems partners, McKesson, was so impressed by peerVue, that it acquired the company in early 2012. Lawton says McKesson saw that its customers were buying peerVue’s solutions, “so we were solving some things outside their core competencies and that were important to their customers.” And while peerVue is now part of McKesson, it does maintain some independence as a business unit. “McKesson is sensitive to the brand strength we had, so it was determined we should remain in place and keep that brand and the relationships we have with companies such as GE, Agfa and Merge. We can learn from their customers, and that can help expand the type of solutions McKesson can deliver,” Lawton adds. “So there are some very positive things about being part of a large company, and we are taking advantage of those while preserving our innovative spirit.”