Utilizing Telehealth to Bring Faster Radiology ResultsWed, 09/09/2015 - 10:29
With an increasing burden on medical health professionals, Ulises Bacilio Pérez, CEO of Grupo PTM saw a gap in the market for an increased focus on telehealth. At age 16, he learned to develop Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which he attempted to employ to effectively administrate the health records of his family’s hospital in the State of Mexico. Unable to finish the project at the time, given its complexity, he decided to continue the project independently in later years. After medical school, Bacilio witnessed the need for administration software within the National Institute of Oncology, citing that the few radiologists in the hospital could barely cater to the demand of the 3,000 patients per month seeking treatment at the hospital.
“The public health system is too large to provide appropriate care for all patients, and long waiting lists for treatment are common,” explains Bacilio. “I always believed that automation could streamline the process as doctors have large caseloads, yet must spend much of their time searching through physical records.” The software was developed at a cost of US$30,000 but was subsequently sold for US$300,000, which is relatively inexpensive within the industry. In the first and second years, the company expanded by 200%, in the third year, growth was 100% and the company’s founders featured on the front cover of CNN Expansión in September 2014 as Entrepreneurs of the Year.
Although the company was born due to a necessity for IT products within hospitals, Grupo PTM now provides a platform for a range of services, including one that can store radiology images economically and efficiently. These programs are intended to help doctors reduce the amount of paperwork required to organize appointments or transmit images and information to technicians and other doctors.
The healthcare system in many developing economies is extremely complicated, due to fragmented developments in infrastructure and slow internet speeds. The largest files can reach up to 1GB and with the relatively low 10- 20kbps upload speeds in Mexico, many companies simply do not have the technology to overcome these problems. At Grupo PTM, Bacilio has developed software which can provide results almost immediately, overcoming low bandwidths without image quality loss.
The company works almost exclusively with private hospitals, at times integrating certain small public sector projects, mainly with mobile units in rural areas that are too remote to have efficient access to hospitals. The government has supported this initiative, creating mobile units for indigenous communities to carry out several tests such as mammograms. This can be problematic at times, according to Bacilio, especially transmitting images from these rural areas to hospitals in main cities with low-quality software and poor infrastructure. However, this type of technology leaves a much smaller carbon footprint as it minimizes travel and it is not necessary for clients to spend money on printing materials. The current pillars of focus for Grupo PTM are radiology, teleradiology, and CT scans. Due to time constraints and the strength of the competition, some of the software developed by the company was created under public platforms, such as the OsiriX Imaging Software for medical imaging, which is free, FDA approved, and was adapted by Bacilio to meet the needs of the Mexican market. In conjunction with Play Business, the company has also developed the Consultapp smartphone app, which provides medical diagnoses in Spanish through a cellphone. The app is able to provide specialist consultations and can even call an ambulance for the patient.
The company is looking towards mHealth (mobile health) as the future of the company, and this year plan to further develop Consultapp, along with other applications. Bacilio has expansion plans stretching into other specialties, such as radiology, ophthalmology and pathology, not only within Mexico, but also other Spanish-speaking countries. Since similarities exist between the Mexican and Colombian healthcare market, Bacilio indicates that Colombia may be the next step in development, but stresses that considerable strategy and knowledge of the local market and population will be required before Grupo PTM will consider expanding outside of Mexico.