Health min­now’s big US splash

The Weekend Australian - - BUSINESS - SARAH-JANE TASKER

Aus­tralian min­now Pro Medi­cus has mus­cled its way into the US, beat­ing global gi­ants to se­cure sought-af­ter con­tracts in a health tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try that boss Sam Hu­pert says Aus­tralia could learn a lot from.

Dr Hu­pert, who started the Aus­tralian-listed com­pany in the early 1980s, said the past four years had been trans­for­ma­tional for Pro Medi­cus, driv­ing the share price from be­low $1 to more than $8.

Mel­bourne-based Pro Medi­cus, which also has of­fices in Ber­lin and San Diego, makes soft­ware that al­lows large health­care in­sti­tu­tions to store and trans­port images.

Dr Hu­pert said the “step change” in the com­pany started to take shape in late 2007 when he de­cided to tar­get a com­pany that did dig­i­tal imag­ing.

“We had the billing side but we in­ter­faced to third par­ties for the vi­su­al­i­sa­tion dis­play of the image.”

In Fe­bru­ary 2009, in the depths of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, Pro Medi­cus bought Vis­age Imag­ing, giv­ing the com­pany an im­por­tant foot­print in the US and the back­ing to com­pete for con­tracts against dom­i­nant gi­ants such as Siemens, GE and Phillips.

Dr Hu­pert said when the com­pany won its first sig­nif­i­cant con­tract in the US there were many scep­tics who be­lieved the com­pany was too small and could not de­liver on the con­tract.

“We have proven them all wrong and we have gone fur­ther, faster, than most peo­ple have imag­ined in the US,” Dr Hu­pert said.

“We have built a port­fo­lio of key clients. Nor­mally you would have to be in the mar­ket for 10 years be­fore these com­pa­nies would look at you. We de­fied that phi­los­o­phy by get­ting the clients we have.”

US clients in­clude the glob­ally recog­nised Mayo Clinic and Yale New Haven Health, which is af­fil­i­ated with Yale Univer­sity and Yale Medicine.

Pro Medi­cus could have missed the US op­por­tu­nity, with Dr Hu­pert high­light­ing that when he first saw Vis­age, he al­most walked past it be­cause it was a spe­cialty prod­uct, largely fo­cused on 3D imag­ing.

“We spent a fair amount on R&D, de­vel­op­ing it from a spe­cial­ity prod­uct to a to­tal prod­uct, and clearly that has made a huge dif­fer­ence.”

Dr Hu­pert said his com­pany had about an 18-month, or longer, tech­nol­ogy lead on some ri­vals.

“It’s that orig­i­nal plat­form we have that we have been able to develop that oth­ers have not been able to. It’s not just one tech­nol­ogy, it’s an amal­ga­ma­tion of 15 to 20 tech­nolo­gies.”

When Dr Hu­pert started his ca­reer as a doc­tor, he says the word com­puter was rarely used, but he had an early sense it would be­come the new form of lit­er­acy.

The ini­tial prod­uct his com­pany of­fered clients was for prac­tice man­age­ment, such as billing, which was tar­geted to deal with the nu­ances of Medi­care and billing re­quire­ments in Aus­tralia.

Dr Hu­pert ex­panded the sys­tem into ra­di­ol­ogy in the late 1980s, giv­ing it first-mover ad­van­tage when that in­dus­try then moved from hard copy to a dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment in early 2000.

“We re­alised there would need to be a link be­tween busi­ness man­age­ment, pa­tient sched­ul­ing and re­port­ing on screen, and ty­ing the them all to­gether,” he said.

“We pro­vided one of the first sin­gle-but­ton, sin­gle-click type en­vi­ron­ments, where the client clicked on a pa­tient’s name and all the images and past re­ports on ra­di­ol­ogy came up at once.”

The US suc­cess has given Dr Hu­pert an in­sight into the in­dus­try there. He said com­pared to Aus­tralia, the global pow­er­house had leapt ahead in this field.

That was partly be­cause the US gov­ern­ment ef­fec­tively man­dated that large health providers had an en­ter­prise med­i­cal record.

“Aus­tralia has to play catch-up there. There are plenty of Aus­tra- lian com­pa­nies that have this great tech­nol­ogy that can be used in Aus­tralia; it’s a shame that we tend to work more over­seas than here,” he said.

“The tech­nol­ogy is avail­able, there’s no rea­son, other than fund­ing and bu­reau­cracy, as to why those tech­nolo­gies wouldn’t work in Aus­tralia.”


Pro Medi­cus chief Sam Hu­pert: ‘We have gone fur­ther, faster, than most peo­ple have imag­ined in the US’

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