By Bob Pellican, CEO Image32
CEO guest post

Every day, millions of X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, and other medical imaging studies are made–but complicated rules and incompatible software have prevented doctors and patients from easily sharing their images.

A recently launched application, image32, gets rid of these barriers and allows doctors and patients to quickly and easily liberate their medical images. CEO Bob Pellican explains why Image32 is different.

Several months ago I was on a call with one of our early beta users, a prominent orthopedic surgeon, and he asked me how we were different from our competitors. I started by going down the standard marketing bullet points:

  • We strip out the protected health information (PHI) before uploading.
  • We are built for instant communication.
  • We only store the images for 30 days.
  • We have a lighter, faster, image viewer.

And on and on. But after hanging up the phone, something bothered me. I hadn’t given him the whole story. 

One of the biggest differences between image32 and our competitors is in our fundamental design approach. Most of our competitors are still selling the enterprise model, leading with the radiology department. This means the radiologists are the primary customers and as such, have a lot of influence on the “feature set” — the buttons and tools that allow you to zoom, scroll, edit and more.

We are fundamentally different, and I’ll explain why.

My background is in user experience (UX) Design. Simply put, a UX designer’s job is to make software easy to use. As a professional designer, I couldn’t do without Photoshop, Adobe’s powerful software for professional designers. Over 20 years, Photoshop has come to be packed with something like 20,000 advanced commands.

Power users love it, but the folks at Adobe figured that they should also make a simpler product for everyday users, people who wanted to crop a few pictures and remove the red-eye.

Ever heard of Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Lite, Photoshop Express, and Photoshop Lightroom? Didn’t think so.

How about Flickr, iPhoto, Shutterfly and Instagram (famously acquired by Facebook for $1B)? All of these companies have simple image manipulation features that are aimed at non-professional users. And they are wildly successful at catering to the new consumer market for image editing tools.

So why didn’t Adobe totally dominate these new markets, when they had the domain expertise for 20 years? I believe it’s because they got all their customer knowledge from years of talking to one user type: professional designers.

Big mistake. Renowned entrepreneur Steve Blank tells us to “get out of the building,” to talk to users, and that’s exactly how a designer learns who they are designing for. Shutterfly and Instagram didn’t take a product built for professional designers and strip it down to make it simpler — they built their products from the ground up,  with non-designers in mind.

Which brings me back to image32. Many of our competitors have been building software for radiologists — the “power users” of medical imaging software — for years. Most medical images originate in the Radiology Department, and appropriately, that’s where the software vendors have been focused. Our competitors know all the features that radiologists want and need, and they likely have deep customer knowledge of radiologists.

But at image32, we are aiming our initial efforts at the non-radiologist clinicians who use medical imaging every day. My co-founder Alexander Flint is a Neurointensivist. One day, he showed me a “Lite” version of a popular imaging product, with an astonishing 40 buttons across the top of the interface. Alex explained that he didn’t know what 36 of them were. He only uses four buttons.

Radiologists are well cared for. At image32, we are focusing on neurologists, oncologists, cardiologists, orthopedists, and other specialists who use medical images multiple times per day in the course of their work. Our product is intuitively designed, allowing users to quickly and easily upload images and scroll through them on any device, anywhere. They can share imaging studies with colleagues, and view them collaboratively in real time. We only have a few easy-to-use buttons, but each of them embodies a feature that doctors want and need.

We are also relentlessly focused on those users of medical imaging who may be the most ignored of all: patients. By building from the ground up, without the power-user in mind, we have the opportunity to redefine what medical imaging can mean for the rest of us.

In case you were wondering, I did get back in touch with that early user to tell him another reason we were different — we were keeping it simple, because most doctors don’t need the medical imaging equivalent of Photoshop. He was intrigued enough by my response that he agreed to post this article as a guest blog. Thanks, Felasfa Wodajo, for helping me think it through.