Disclaimer: This article was published in the Manila Times last November 11, 2018 link: https://www.manilatimes.net/the-alibaba-of-radiology/465572/
Lifetrack Medical Systems has developed the first scalable medical imaging platform designed for affordable adoption in emerging markets. The LifeSys platform allows rapid transmission, aggregation, and access of medical images through the cloud from multiple sites including remote areas.
Back in 2003, Lifetrack founder and CEO Dr. Eric Schulze co-founded one of the first teleradiology companies in the United States, 24/7 Radiology, which eventually grew to serve the night shift requirements of over 100 sites in the US with radiologist reading centers in Manila, Singapore, Bangalore, and Kolkata.
He eventually sold 24/7 Radiology to Alliance Imaging in 2011 and reviewed how radiology software could be architected from the ground up to support a regionally or globally distributed radiology operation at scale, while eliminating all the operational pain and financial costs he encountered at 24/7 Radiology.
In late 2016, Lifesys, which has come to be dubbed as the “Alibaba of Radiology” was launched.
All about access and convenience
According to Lifetrack chief operating officer Carl Nicholas Ng, the purpose of the platform is to enable healthcare providers provide diagnostic imaging services to people in far-flung areas.
“Lifetrack’s LifeSys platform enables the providers of diagnostic imaging, the hospitals and clinics, to reach people who do not have access to diagnostic imaging, which according to the World Health Organization is nearly two-thirds of the world’s population. Our customers are putting digital x-rays in remote clinics and CT scanners in rural hospitals by using LifeSys to aggregate, distribute, and send patient images so that radiologists can efficiently diagnose them, oftentimes remotely,” he shared.
The platform was a big help especially when typhoon Haiyan hit the country a few years back. It obviously destroyed basic medical care in Leyte, with most specialists leaving soon after, resulting in a massive rise in disease rates. The typhoon also swept away most electrical and telecommunication infrastructure.
“The Philippine Tuberculosis Society set up a tuberculosis screening clinic on the island of Leyte. The Society approached Lifetrack to connect their digital x-ray to a radiologist in the capital, Manila, using a 4G connection. The clinic is now able to upload diagnostic grade x-rays using 4G to the LifeSys cloud server where a radiologist 900 km away is able to access it within five minutes, offering rapid screening and diagnosis of tuberculosis in a remote, underserved area.”
Ng also explained that these medical images can also be transmitted to different countries. “A large Philippine teaching hospital with radiology residents staffed 24/7 can function as a central radiology department for unaffiliated provincial hospitals all around the country, as long as both are on the LifeSys platform.
Or an Indian hospital group can receive and diagnose medical images from unaffiliated African hospitals using LifeSys, at the flick of a switch. Instead of Indian or Filipino radiologists moving to countries with severe shortages of specialists, LifeSys can prevent brain drain of talented medical professionals lost to their home countries and increase access to medical imaging in underserved markets,” he further elaborated.
Since launching LifeSys with their first pilot customers in October 2016, LifeSys has enabled the diagnosis of over 500,000 patient cases across 130 healthcare facilities in nine countries such as USA, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Brazil.
Due to its success, the platform was awarded for Excellence in Disruptive Technology at the Financial Times/International Finance Corporation Transformational Business Awards in London last June 2018. They also won the award for the Best Life Sciences/MedTech Startup in the Philippines at the ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards in 2017.
The future is bright with LifeSys
Aside from radiology, Lifesys plans to expand to other medical specialties. “As part of our vision for Lifetrack as the medical imaging platform that can help healthcare providers reach more patients, we plan to start incorporating other specialties apart from radiology, such as Ophthalmology and Cardiology. These fields also require medical imaging and have the same dynamics around scarcity of specialists and rising demand in emerging markets, and we see them as natural adjacencies to expand into and help our healthcare customers solve their constraints around expansion and coverage in these departments,” according to Ng. Currently, they are in the planning stages to conduct pilots for both opthalmology and cardiology on the LifeSys platform with customers in the Philippines.
The other component of their vision for Lifetrack as a medical imaging platform is developing a sustainable model for their “Alibaba for Radiology” marketplace. “We aim to push forward projects that will show this at scale. We are in discussions to connect UK National Health Service Trusts to reputable Indian radiology groups using our platform, allowing the UK access to outsourced teleradiology services while preventing brain drain of Indian radiologists who would otherwise have migrated to the UK. We are also working with flagship healthcare providers in the Philippines to develop their own ancillary radiology services, using our platform to connect with provincial or rural healthcare facilities in need of radiologist coverage,” he concluded.