Fujifilm TeraMedica—a VNA player capable of reining in the ‘United Nations of vendors’?

Fujifilm’s acquisition of TeraMedica, the 14-year-old, Milwaukee-based developer of vendor-neutral archive (VNA) products and services, has sent a formidable new vendor entity—Fujifilm TeraMedica Inc.—straight to the head of the VNA class. Few healthcare-technology watchers would deny as much.

However, in a sense, it was already in the front row prior to the May 13 completion of the deal. Fujifilm’s Synapse VNA has incorporated TeraMedica technology since March of 2013 and, according to the new Fujifilm TeraMedica website, TeraMedica software is installed at more than 600 sites on six continents.

Executives from both arms of Fujifilm TeraMedica spoke about the development with ImagingBiz.  

“We look to keep expanding the technical resources that we can apply to the product beyond what was already in place,” said Jim Morgan, vice president of medical informatics at Fujifilm Medical Systems USA. “And we expect current customers to continue to get the [same] service they’ve been getting from the TeraMedica-Fuji combination.”

The Milwaukee operation will retain its 40 or so employees in the immediate, then add headcount to its engineering and support teams over the next nine months. But no major changes are planned for the VNA product itself.

“It’s more a function of being a combined company that removes any doubt to customers over what they’re buying and whom they’re buying it from,” Morgan said. “This gives them the security of knowing that the company is not going to change hands. They know they’re not going to buy a product that ends up being owned by another company.”

Greg Strowig, TeraMedica’s chief operating officer, who now holds that title for Fujifilm TeraMedica, recalled how the partnership started two years ago after Fujifilm saw value in TeraMedica’s experience working with the “United Nations of vendors” scattered around the globe.

“Fuji could have done some things that some other vendors in their market space did, and that is just come out with a product that’s labeled a VNA but really is a PACS archive,” he said. “They chose to bring in the capability to integrate with everything. Going forward, Fuji will continue to market and sell the product as one in a set of solutions. The customers can choose to buy the VNA without buying any of the other products, or they can come to Fuji for a larger basket of products.”

Breaking down barriers

In radiology, VNA technology enables healthcare providers to share image content across disparate IT applications, regardless of how well—or how poorly—various vendors’ imaging-related products play together. Some predict that its ascent points to the eventual fadeout of PACS. (“Choose the right VNA partner, and the migration of the radiology or cardiology data to the VNA will be the last migration of that data a hospital makes,” Fujifilm informatics VP William Lacy wrote just days ago.)

Strowig spoke to the observation that the term vendor-neutral archive is something of a misnomer.

“The software is from a vendor, and it is not an archive,” he said. “It’s a repository that actually becomes a part of the fabric of the healthcare enterprise. It allows information to be exchanged within the healthcare enterprise’s walls through the EMR, breaking down the barriers [that have long existed] between departments and specialties, as well as cutting across regional boundaries, allowing ACOs and HIEs to benefit from the technology. Vendor-neutral archive is what the market came up with, just for lack of a better term.”

Morgan stressed that the TeraMedica-Fuji fusion means offering customers a both/and, as opposed to an either/or, choice.

“They can have the best-of-breed of a lot of products, specifically the VNA we’re talking about, or they can have an all-in-one solution that they can add together,” he said. “There are customers in both camps. Some think you need to mix-and-match to get the best. Some believe that you have to sacrifice to get multiple products from the same vendor. Because of the historical neutrality of the TeraMedica VNA, we are now in a position where we can offer you best-of-breed in all categories without your having to sacrifice capability or technology.”

“It was important for TeraMedica to find a partner with the skills and expertise to leverage us not only as an integrated part of the rest of their solutions but also to leverage our independence,” Strowig said. “Fuji has made a commitment to not only building TeraMedica as part of their overall solution set but also to allowing it to have its own independent life, leveraging the skills of all our people and the capabilities of a technology that we’ve built over the past 14 years.”