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Startup with ties to athenahealth aims to shake up radiology IT

Candescent Health, a radiology IT startup with ties to athenahealth, aims to shake up radiology with cloud-based analytics software complemented by a human-based service desk.

When Cleveland Clinic recently signed a long-term deal with Boston startup Candescent Health, executives of the sprawling health system were betting that Candescent's new approach to radiology IT would help them cut imaging errors.

Michael Phillips, M.D., said he is counting on Candescent's cloud-based software as a service radiology routing and analytics system -- complemented by a human-staffed "help desk" -- to direct images from the clinic's 170 radiology offices to the appropriate subspecialist for reading.

"When you get a large group of radiologists, you need that kind of air traffic controlling system," Phillips, director of the Center of Business Development, Imaging Institute at Cleveland Clinic, told SearchHealthIT. "The goal is to match the right subspecialist, whether it's a radiologist or cardiologist, with the right scan at the right time."

RSNA 2015

Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation's top five radiology providers, is in the midst of loading the Candescent software system and hopes to complete the installation by March 2016, Phillips said.

That process is underway as the world's largest radiology conference and show, the RSNA 2015 Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting, readies to unfold for the 101st time in Chicago Nov. 29 to Dec. 4.

The show's producer, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), is a slight misnomer because the group has so many international members from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The goal is to match the right subspecialist with the right scan at the right time.
Michael PhillipsCleveland Clinic

In any case, new vendors such as Candescent will be on the bustling RSNA show floor at the McCormick Place convention center, as will medical imaging giants such as Agfa HealthCare, Fujifilm Holdings Corporation, Hitachi Aloka Medical America Inc., GE Healthcare, McKesson Corporation, Philips, Siemens Healthcare, Samsung and Toshiba America Medical Systems.

Along with the vendors will be hundreds of educational sessions featuring leading radiology minds from around the world.

And just as radiology has come more into the healthcare mainstream and other medical specialties have developed their own imaging expertise, radiology IT has been more prominent at RSNA in recent years with radiology analytics and workflow systems increasingly complementing all the high-tech hardware.

Ties to athenahealth

In the meantime, Candescent has made no secret of its close business and philosophical ties to athenahealth Inc., a vendor of cloud-based EHR and billing systems for physician practices and small hospitals, based in Watertown, Mass.

The CEO and co-founder of athenahealth, Jonathan Bush, is on Candescent's board of directors. Former senior vice president of corporate development at athenahealth and Bush associate Nancy Brown, now a health IT venture capitalist, is an adviser to Candescent.

"They have an opportunity to completely disrupt that space," said Brown, a venture partner with the Oak HC/FT health IT and financial service technology venture equity fund, of Candescent and its prospects in radiology IT.

Brown's colleague, Ann Lamont, managing partner at Oak Investment Partners, is an investor in Candescent.

As for Bush's involvement, "I felt like it was a vote of confidence" in the fledgling company, Brown said, who works out of an office on the athenahealth campus.

Brown said it was notable that Cleveland Clinic, which is known for innovation in areas such as population health and health data analytics, turned to "an outside innovation" for the critical goal of improving radiology quality now that results are being increasingly measured under value-based reimbursement.

Candescent is not a conventional startup, however, Brown pointed out.

Radisphere spinoff

Candescent's founder and CEO, Scott Seidelmann, was the president and CEO of Radisphere Radiology, a national provider organization with more than 120 radiologists working at some 60 locations in 23 states.

In January 2015, Radisphere was acquired by Sheridan Healthcare, the physician services division of healthcare giant AmSurg Corp.

As part of that $2.3 billion cash and stock transaction, Candescent held onto all the software, analytics and business processes that Seidelmann and his colleagues developed at Radisphere.

"That knowledge is what we're selling," Seidelmann said. "We've actually done it for a decade."

The technology at the heart of Candescent's RadPerform system tracks radiology quality assurance in the workflow process to help radiologists perform better; assigns cases to specific physicians based on rules while the system integrates patients' clinical history with images; and provides dashboards to give radiologists feedback on practice and specialty benchmarks.

Supplementing the radiology IT system is 24/7 live personnel support for radiologists. These Candescent employees route cases to the right subspecialists and collect missing information.

Instead of a $400,000-a-year radiologist hunting around the country for the right person to read her image scan, a $17-an-hour informatics-enabled Candescent analyst does it, Seidelmann explained.

A similar strategy is used at athenahealth, where call centers are staffed by employees who help healthcare providers attest to meaningful use and work with the new ICD-10 medical coding system.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer or contact @ssutner on Twitter.

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