Harris bursts into healthcare scene with imaging and IT solutions

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Harris demonstrated its technology that enables pathologists and other medical professionals to view, collaborate and manipulate multi-gigabyte digital images in a virtual environment at the 2008 HIMSS conference in Orlando, Fla.

Harris’ imaging technology, originally designed for the U.S. intelligence community and civilian agencies, allows a pathologist to work within a digital and collaborative context.

Jim Traficant, vice president of Harris Healthcare Solutions, who has worked at Harris for the past six years, explained to Health Imaging News how his experience in the healthcare sector led the company to further explore how its government imaging technologies could be transferred to a healthcare environment. Having endured two liver transplants, Traficant said he has been on the wrong side of healthcare, and helped convinced Harris’ executives to enter the healthcare market.

In his personal health experiences, Traficant said that having been “on the wrong side of an imaging machine and helped me understand the fundamental need to manage information in healthcare to patient safety and saving lives.”

In addition to entering the healthcare sector, Harris “runs the FAA telecommunications infrastructure. If you’ve flown on a plane, you’ve been cared for by the Harris network. A million and a half lives are on a Harris network every day,” he said.

“Harris is at the intersection of life and data for every market we serve. If the right data doesn’t get to the right device at the point of decision, then national security is compromised, or the people delivering will be at risk,” Traficant said. He added that the knowledge can be transferred to the healthcare industry.

One specific area that Harris can apply its previous technology and IT ventures to is imaging. “Probably one of our strongest confidences comes out of imaging. We do about a billion dollars of research a year, most of which is funded by the government. We take the state of the art and push it to the state of the practice,” he said.  For example, in the intelligence community, Traficant said they can access any image if someone needs a certain image in a certain modality with a time-frame association. “We go through a series of networks in the classified world and find that requested image, and deliver it anywhere in the world, even under constrained bandwidth,” he said.

Harris is using this technology to digitize pathology, which unlike radiology, where most of the diagnostic data is collected digitally, pathology still uses glass slides with tissue samples that are examined under a microscope. If a second opinion is needed, the tissue samples must be physically shipped to other locations. Harris said it has the technology to move very large images—some tens of gigabytes in size—transmit the images and manipulate them without delay or latency.

At their HIMSS08 booth, Harris displayed its Pathology Cockpit, which demonstrated the company’s ability to view and manipulate digital pathology images remotely, along with the ability to annotate the images with digital notes and delineate special areas of interest on the sample, such as a cluster of tumor cells.

“We are breaking through previous limits in computing and image processing to enable collaborative viewing, archival and retrieval of large data volumes in a virtual environment with no latency in the viewing experience,” according to the Bart Harmon, MD, pathologist and chief medical officer of Harris Healthcare Solutions.

The company also unveiled Digital Signage solutions for healthcare enterprises at HIMSS08, which feature InfoCaster content management systems and software that is in use today.

Harris’ patented InfoCaster content management systems “allows users to easily create, schedule, manage, distribute and deliver graphics for large-screen presentations, whether they are intended for plasma monitors within a single facility or a vast network of hundreds of plasma monitors among remote locations,” according to Traficant.

Harris has entered the healthcare industry through an ideology of interoperability. All new technologies that emerge from Harris’ healthcare portfolio will be standards-based, and not proprietary, so it can be used across multiple platforms, Traficant concluded.