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MDW aims to combat radiologist shortage with blockchain

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | December 04, 2018
Business Affairs
Imaging has always had an entrepreneurial flair. Radiologists who, for example, launched outpatient centers or provided “NightHawk” remote reading services pioneered new delivery models for meeting clinical demand.

Medical Diagnostic Web (MDW) is following in the footsteps of such disruptive business models, according to CEO and co-founder Michael Averbach. The company recently launched a blockchain platform to match radiologists seeking more volumes with imaging centers in need of additional reading capacity to meet the demand of turnaround times.

“Our long-standing goal is to bring transparency and create an open and fair imaging marketplace connecting buyers and sellers through blockchain," Averbach told HCB News. "We align the system toward their interests and not to the benefit of large commercial entities, which might not necessarily align with interests of the doctors.”

He said blockchain offers a viable solution to the looming prediction of a radiologist shortage. “We’re not inventing anything new with blockchain, but rather, we’re seeking to apply the advantages of this new technology to the imaging sector.”

Averbach is no stranger to reinvention. A chain of acquisitions led to the sale of his last company, QuickOffice, which provided document management solutions to Google. He now wants to apply the advantages of blockchain to reinvent the business of medical imaging.

Blockchain offers several advantages. These include making transactional radiology workflow highly secure with a permanent, immutable record and audit trail. It is essentially a decentralized and continually updated database for all users and all transactions. Averbach said that it removes some of the critical operational "pain points" for radiologists created by silos in clinics and hospitals. Among the benefits of a blockchain solution is support for near-instant reimbursement for the radiologists.

Another application MDW is offering is a marketplace for the sale of medical imaging records to create massive data sets of annotated images needed to train artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. This AI algorithm marketplace, as Averbach describes it, would enable imaging facilities to sell anonymous imaging files needed in AI development. He said this model would meet all applicable privacy and ownership laws governing such transactions.

“Eventually we envision expanding this marketplace to a sort of an app store for algorithms. Using this feature, imaging centers and hospitals can shop for and assemble an entire library of medical imaging algorithms fine-tuned to their needs,” said Averbach in a company statement. “Through a convenient, homogenized resource, they will be able to take advantage of a full range of artificial intelligence applications to streamline workflow and enhance patient care."

MDW launched its service in the closed, invitation-only mode this fall, and has nearly 100 board-certified U.S. radiologists working on the platform to provide image reading services. Also, a handful of overseas radiologists are already providing annotation review for AI data files.

“Our blockchain model offers a transparent, fair and open marketplace for radiologists,” added Averbach.

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