Viztek CEO Joe Cermin: PACS is almost a bad word

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 - Joe Cermin, CEO, Viztek
Joe Cermin, CEO, Viztek

Viztek is on a roll. In early January, the Garner, N.C.-based radiology vendor won FDA approval for Exa, its web-based, zero-footprint PACS platform. Later that month it reported a 20 percent year-over-year increase in software sales. And during the last week of February, it announced a personal-best sales pace for its new ViZion + Wireless DR panel.

The latter has only been on the market since November yet has already sold more than 300 units—one of the reasons Viztek projects close to $70 million in sales this year. That will be up from $60 million last year, and it will more than double what the company did six years ago.

Seeking to find out what the 100-employee outfit is doing so right, imagingBiz reached out to Josip “Joe” Cermin, native of Croatia, winner of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and founder of Viztek in 1999. Cermin has helmed Viztek as president ever since. We caught up with him as he was gearing up for HIMSS15, where the company will demonstrate Exa.

You entered 2015 riding a series of successes. What right decisions did you make to get to this point, and how do you plan to build on your momentum?

Cermin: What we do as a company is try to move each division an inch forward. Some by definition move a mile forward, like our software division, where we went from Opal-RAD [PACS] to Exa PACS. In 2012, when we began designing Exa, you couldn’t have envisioned a zero-footprint delivery meshed together with an EHR, plus full delivery of billing, in the same context of workflow.

The challenge for us has been to move away from thinking about PACS in the traditional sense, which we’ve now been doing for 15 years.

In fact, our aim is to eventually not do just PACS at all anymore. PACS is almost a bad word for me. We are in a different world now, in a patient-centric delivery system. How do you get the doctor to automatically share the images and still be HIPAA compliant? It was with long-range ideas like that in mind that we set out to create the Exa system.

It starts from the beginning, with patient registration, and it ends somewhere in billing. In the process of all this, you do have an image-delivery system like PACS, you do have report delivery, which is like a RIS. However, you also have a full-blown EHR, with features that are unheard of in PACS and RIS—and it also complies with Meaningful Use.

The design was very ambitious in 2012.  We just emerged out of the design phase: Exa was developed under our roof. We are, of course, very pleased with the reception it has received. A lot of people claim to have zero footprint, but it’s really not that simple. It’s not about just the delivery of an image. It’s about the whole [radiology] workflow.

What did you have to do to take the full radiology workflow into account during product development?

Cermin: We had to adjust to all of the workflows for every situation based on the FDA’s requirements for image delivery. And we had to come up with every single possible scenario that could happen in a radiology practice’s workflow.

I think we are quite unique in what we have achieved, because everything we did involves a piece of software. Our customers who install Exa will not require upgrades, they will require only up dates. There’s a big difference.

It doesn’t really matter what kind of computers they have. What’s important is that everything—the whole workflow, the whole patient management system—is both zero footprint and all delivered at the same time. Scanned documents, patient charts, blood types—everything is delivered within the same package. So, it’s really not a PACS at all.

Now you see why I don’t like the word PACS. PACS is very simplistic. It’s moving something from point A to point B. Full workflow support is the difference with Exa, and I am of the belief that it will carry Viztek very far over the next 10 years. That is a big thing to say, when you build a platform. It’s a big thing to say that you’ll be using that platform for the next 10 years: In the software world, that’s unheard of.

Let’s shift gears from image and data management to imaging itself. A new market research report from Life Science Industry Research projects that the global x-ray 2D market will grow from $5 billion in 2014 to $16.9 billion by 2021. Where do you expect the action to be for Viztek’s product portfolio?

Cermin: We are in a retrofit market. Everybody has digital something, be it DR or CR. Because of the talent level of the people we have in-house on the DR side of the