Since the introduction of its Fusion integrated radiology information system (RIS) and picture archiving and communication system (PACS) — RIS/PACS — about three years ago, Merge Healthcare (Milwaukee) reported release of an improved version of that system, called Fusion RIS/PACS MX, which has been redesigned based on, it said, customer user input.

Merge's Fusion MX blends together the advantages of a RIS and PACS system into a "single business and clinical application" providing radiologists with what they term a "command center," the company said.

"What's very unique is [that] it was developed to focus on the absolute intense efficiency needed by radiologists today," Merge's CTO Tim Kulbago told Medical Device Daily. "We removed the interface part of it and it is a completely integrated product."

The company said that Fusion RIS/PACS MX delivers a single workflow application, which is relevant to the spectrum of both clinical and business needs for medical imaging. The system is driven by each exam and enables a single source of access to all patient information, decreasing the likelihood of duplicative or missing data.

Also, because it offers "customizable, intuitive worklists and embedded tools," such as document management, the expectation is that these tools will improve each user's productivity and help imaging businesses reduce report turnaround times.

The ultimate benefit with the Fusion MX is "we can help our customers make their most expensive resource – their radiologists — more accurate," Kulbago said, "and at the end of the day make them more profitable and deliver better care."

Fusion MX is based on a radiologist workspace that gives single-desktop access to all information required for reading and reporting on an exam via the Patient Master Jacket. "Point and click linkage" and to other workflow tools such as relevant prior exams, embedded dictation, interrupt sessions and instant messaging, are designed to provide radiologists a comprehensive "command center," the company said.

For example, radiologists need a great deal of information in order to make a diagnosis, such as medical history, or the referring physicians order and who that physician is.

"Without the command center, they're going to have to log into and look at lots of different systems to try to find that information," Kulbago said. "With our command center concept for radiologists, all of that information — the patient information, prior exam information, scanned documents, all of the DICOM images are all in one application [and] all presented to the radiologists in a very efficient and intuitive way, so they can get to everything as quickly as they can to an authoritative source of information."

According to Kenneth Rardin, Merge Healthcare CEO, many of Merge Healthcare's existing customers have performed return-on-investment analysis with the new system and have shown "tangible improvements," such as ini turnaround times, reduced from days to minutes; the addition of new imaging centers while limiting volume for new staff hires; increased exam volumes within the same cost structure; and condensed space requirements from distributed workloads.

Steven Mendelsohn, MD, medical director of Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology, which operates seven New York-based imaging center, said, "In our fast-paced work environment, we must ensure that our radiologists practice in the best and most efficient manner," adding that he expects to leverage the 20-year-old Merge's new Fusion MX system "not only for radiologists, but also for staff across our entire organization."

"Merge Healthcare's comprehensive exam-driven workflow and customizable worklist management ensure that people across the organization, from scheduling through billing, can yield new efficiencies," said Matt Dewey, COO of Zwanger-Pesiri.

Kulbago said that Merge primarily focuses on multi-site or single-site diagnostic imaging centers; specialty clinics that have an imaging component, or small-to-medium sized hospitals, adding that the company is "not big into the teaching hospitals."

Merge is currently experiencing some rough waters, with the hope that these new technology roll-outs will smooth the way.

Last July, the company's CEO; CFO, treasurer and secretary; and senior VP of strategic development resigned following after an audit committee completed its investigation following a number of anonymous letters alleging improprieties relating to the company's financial reporting (Medical Device Daily, July 7, 2006).

In mid-November, the company reported a "reorganization and right-sizing initiative" (MDD, Nov. 17, 2006), including reduction of about 150 jobs, 28% of its workforce, with anticipated cost savings of $13 million to $16 million annually. The down-sizing was expected to take the company from about 550 personnel to roughly 400.

Merge said at the time it expected to ramp staffing up to the 550 level within three to six months, using "off-shore resources" in India, where it planned a software development and support center with an anticipated run-rate of $4 million to $6 million.

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