DICOM was developed to let healthcare centers access medical images regardless of which vendor's PACS and archive they are using. However, federated search of those repositories based on DICOM has been easier said than done because metadata and DICOM header data on image files are handled differently by each PACS application.
Bridgehead CEO Tony Cotterill said PACStore takes the DICOM header data, as well as the proprietary metadata, and creates its own index the way some email archiving and data classification products do. In future versions of the system, Cotterill said, "Studies will be indexed and searchable in ways that lend themselves to the medical profession," such as clustering multiple images around a particular patient.
Competition or cooperation to come?
IBM and Hewlett-Packard offer archiving products for healthcare based on grid software from ByCast, but have yet to integrate federated DICOM search or unify archive repositories among different PACS applications. IBM officials said at an event last year that such integration is the goal, along with the ability to archive other types of data such as electronic medical records, along with PACS images.
An IBM spokesperson said this week that so far there aren't any new developments to report. HP has said it is working to integrate with the most widely deployed PACS applications. But one HP customer said at the last update of HP's system in January that DICOM integration remains on his wish list.
"It's better for us to send DICOM-created images to a DICOM archive so we can do more with them," according to Michael York, senior systems engineer for Asante Health Systems. "We would have more metadata associated with those files and could automatically get rid of things. Right now we're just storing everything indefinitely."
Cotterill said PACStore isn't necessarily going to be competing with those products and wouldn't expect ByCast's grid software to offer this capability. IBM and HP's products are archiving "in the hardware sense -- a place where you can put things long term," while BridgeHead actively removes data from the primary application and indexes it. "In fact, I would call their products complementary to ours. We could very well use the ByCast grid as a target for our software," he said.
One analyst said PACStore may give the U.K.-based BridgeHead an opening for an OEM deal with the ByCast-based vendors. But in an email to SearchStorage.com, analyst Lauren Whitehouse, Enterprise Strategy Group, said, "BridgeHead has had a sustainable business for some time now. An OEM relationship would likely be an accelerator to this market, but the company has the resources and credibility to win business regardless."