McKesson melds the iPhone with giant touch screens in the name of science

McKesson, a Vancouver-based medical imaging company, took time at IMPACT, a BCTIA event held Thursday evening at the Vancouver Hyatt, to explain how they used innovation to redefine how medical professionals interact with imagery.

McKesson Engineering VP Warren Edwards explained how MRIs and other vital medical images can be compared to a shoebox full of snapshots, and to further the analogy, he said that what McKesson does with medical images is akin to what Google’s Picasa does to organize and manipulate the theoretical shoebox full of snapshots.

Medical imaging used to be dominated by large companies, but changes in technology have put new demands on the industry, For one, Edwards said, there’s an information overload produced by increasingly detailed images created by much more precise instruments, along with a dearth in specialists able to parse this information. It’s also a challenge for the health care sector to keep up with the pace of innovation in the workplace. Edwards compared today’s always-on teenagers to doctors and other medical professionals who have a very difficult time keeping in contact with their colleagues. The solution, Edwards said, is an IT approach, and McKesson is more of an IT company than just an imaging firm. Content management is the best way to approach the ever-increasing information flow of today’s health care sector, Edwards said.

But perhaps the biggest innovation McKesson has introduced is a multi-touch interface Edwards referred to as a “giant iPhone” called the Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS). In fact, PACS, which is a giant high-resolution touch sensitive screen, is also integrated into the iPhone itself, giving doctors and others the ability to share and access data anywhere. The large screen enables zooming, panning and scrolling through stacks of medical images, and lets medical workers add annotations. Intiuitvie hand motions allow the images and other data to be passed to mobile devices and promises more efficient case reviews, medical meetings and physician consultations.

Edwards pointed to 3D imaging as a technology that took time to gain traction in medicine, but is now expected. CAD imaging isn’t there yet, he said, but he expects institutional adoption to improve given time.