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Published 13 September 2012 05:03, Updated 13 September 2012 09:25
Technology has transformed the way medical practitioners deliver health solutions, and few have witnessed more of this progress than Sam Hupert, chief executive of Pro Medicus. The company began in 1983 as a joint venture between a doctor (Hupert) and an IT specialist, Anthony Hall.
Hupert says initially there was very little technology in health administration. To operate on the internet in the early 1990s it was necessary to have a research affiliation with a university. “We started a product where we delivered radiology results to a clinical desktop. It was like a secure, guaranteed email delivery acknowledgement system which was one of the early uses of the internet. It is a transaction-based business.”
Hupert says that when the company listed in 2000, the technology was mainly used for business management. “If you had an X-ray in Melbourne it was probably scheduled through one of our systems,” he says. “The bills to Medicare went through one of our systems.
“We then realised radiology was moving from film to digital. And there were a lot of big companies that worked in that digital space. Film companies like Agfa, Kodak, GE and Siemens.
“We teamed up with Agfa in 2002 and married our informatics side with their clinical side.”
After the global financial crisis, Pro Medicus had a fortunate break, Hupert says. It acquired technology cheaply that undertook three-dimensional imaging from a Nasdaq-listed American company that was divesting in a hurry. He says the technology crunches “massive files” into 3D images that can be streamed remotely.
“Instead of bringing a 2 to 3 gigabyte file to your desktop, it goes directly from the equipment to a local server and you may only stream one-50th of that.
“All of a sudden, a radiologist could do things they couldn’t remotely think of doing before. It is unusual that a small Australian company now has its hands on all that technology globally in the US, Canada and the UK. We are competing against the majors: the GEs, the Siemens. I don’t think they have the technology that can match us. If you are a neurosurgeon with a tumour you need to see exactly where it is impinging. If you are an orthopaedic surgeon [you have specific requirements], it is the same, or if you are a vascular surgeon.
“I love what we are doing in the industry at the moment. I am not talking from a financial point of view. I think we are in the right space for the time.”