Bringing innovative medical imaging software to market: two key lessons

Overcoming challenges relating to workflow integration and the high cost of customer acquisition

The combination of ever-increasing radiologist workload and dramatic changes in reimbursement have driven the development of innovative AI and intelligent image processing modules. Recent years have seen many new imaging technologies reach market-readiness, but relatively few are ultimately implemented on a large scale.

During our journey to successfully bring an image registration product to market (Blackford Smart Localizer), we encountered many challenges. But some of the most significant hurdles we encountered only became apparent after we had developed the final product and had received FDA 510k clearance.

Two key challenges we’d like to explore today include:

  • Integrating with existing workflow
  • The high cost of customer acquisition

Workflow integration

Demonstrating the value of a solution and having a radiologist or clinician recognize the benefit is just the first step. After agreeing that solution can deliver value, the hard questions really start and are likely to include:

“Can this be integrated into my PACS?” and “How does this fit in my current workflow?”

The last thing radiologists want is another solution to manage or to add complex new steps to their daily processes. After all, new technology is supposed to reduce workload and improve productivity, right?

As we learned, the key is to build solutions that are integrated with PACS, so that information is  automatically extracted from images and the outcomes delivered so that they can be acted upon within PACS. A solution must be fully integrated with existing systems to minimize impact and eliminate performance degradation – this includes careful management of the DICOM interface to minimize the impact on PACS.

And all of this has to happen before images are read during a radiologist’s usual workflow.

Customer acquisition cost

But the challenges facing a new solution are not just related to technology and workflow. It can also be easy to underestimate the cost and time associated with implementing new technology.

The cost of gaining initial sales can be high, especially in a specialised area such as medical imaging, where the typical sale value is high and number of people involved in the decision process can be numerous. The long sales cycles this leads to can significantly impact time to revenue.

In our experience, an effective way to reduce these challenges is to use selective, strategic partnerships with the right companies to gain access to their existing installed base and benefit from support from the partner’s sales, marketing and technical teams.

Consider a platform approach

Ultimately, our experiences in the market made it clear that there had to be a better way for new imaging technologies to be adopted in the market. We knew our experience, customer base and deployment experience would be useful for other companies in our position. Our deployed base of hospitals, radiology groups and imaging centres is always growing through direct sales and channel partners such as Philips, Intelerad and eRad.

But we also realised that by adopting a platform-based approach, we could help streamline the technology adoption process for other solutions. So we extended our platform to be able to host third-party products.

Integrated into existing imaging systems, our platform hosts multiple AI and intelligent image processing modules and controls the flow of medical imaging data to and from modules. Image processing software modules can be can quickly and easily implemented, greatly reducing time from development to revenue.

Learn more about workflow integration via our presentation The Challenges of Integrating Algorithmic Solutions into Clinical Workflows or contact us to find out more on how the Blackford Platform can be used to deploy multiple AI, Machine Learning and intelligent image process technologies.