The company is 4D Imaging Systems Inc. (www.4d-imaging.com), formerly known as 4D Medical Systems Inc. The name change was announced in August 2011 to reflect a focus on “developing information technology solutions that aid in the management of visual data in multiple vertical markets,” not just healthcare. The company’s primary focus is currently on the wound care, Medi-Spa, and dermatology markets, with customers in each segment.
During a recent interview with teknovation.biz, founder Joe Ortiz discussed the background and motivations for starting 4D Imaging Systems, a company self-funded by Ortiz for much of its life until the company won a maturation grant from the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC) about a year ago.
The President and Chief Executive Officer founded the company in September 2007, some 17 years after he came to the area with Philips Digital Video Communication Systems. Ortiz later joined Internet Pictures (IPIX) where, as Vice President and General Manager of the panoramic photography business, he gained “great insight into unique ways of ‘immersively’ imaging the world.”
“I climbed the corporate ladder, driving technical concepts to market for the companies I worked for, first as an engineer, then as a business person,” Ortiz explained, adding that “I always wanted to go out on my own and build a business.” This interest grew stronger over the years as he “saw the waves of information technology that had been commercialized and that he could have pursued.”
Finally, he decided five years ago to ride a wave caused by what he says is the “proliferation of visual imaging sensors capturing data.” Ortiz saw the business opportunity for 4D Imaging Systems helping customers answer the question, “What are you going to do with your visual data so you can make better decisions about what’s going on?”
The company focused itself on developing systems to capture, organize, extract, enhance and report on visual information. At the outset, Ortiz looked at security, surveillance and military markets, but decided to focus on healthcare after reading an article on total body photography to track melanoma changes that his wife found in The Wall Street Journal.
The initial two and one-half years were challenging, conducting market research, developing a prototype for the total body imaging device, filing patents, going after National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research grants, and developing a business plan that, due to the economic conditions, did not get funded.
However, based on the initial market research, Ortiz identified a broader unmet need in the market and developed and began to sell the PhotoStation System and Software which is now the foundation of the company’s current product line.
Ortiz did not lose his faith even though he admits that it was tough, particularly without a partner or full time staff. He added that “contractors helped tremendously on certain development tasks, but their motivations are different from the business owners.”
“It’s critical that you have in place a full-time, committed team that can complement you from the get-go,” he says now, acknowledging that “it was challenging since I did not have anyone with a technology or business background to partner with to help get the business going.”
Today, 4D Imaging Systems has added two area entrepreneurs who are now part of the management team. They are John Miller, formerly of Simple Control, who is serving as 4D Imaging’s Chief Operating Officer, and David Rose, formerly of Intern Alley, who is handling information technology and customer systems.
“Joe is building an executive team that the only thing we have in common is we are all entrepreneurs,” Miller said. “We bring complementary skills.”
During its five years, 4D Imaging System’s product line has evolved as its focus has become more laser like. The company now offers both its 4D PhotoStation Manager software, which is a software-only solution that works with any digital camera and any Windows computer system, and its all-in-one solution called the 4D PhotoStation System that integrates hardware and 4D Imaging’s software with each customer’s existing electronic or paper-based records system and workflow. The company has also rolled-out cloud-based storage solutions for its customers, providing them with photo documentation access from multiple office locations.
The development of the company’s latest product iterations was accelerated when it received the TTDC maturation grant late last year.
In selecting wound care as a key market, Ortiz says that it is important for doctors to “detect and automatically measure change over time . . . same view, different time. Doctors want to know what the progression in wound surface area change is, and we make it easy to automatically determine that change using photo documentation.”
The healthcare version of the company’s products provides doctors with a simple and easy way to use photo documentation for a variety of purposes. They include insurance precertification; reimbursable photography based-procedures; reimbursements that require photographic support; pre-op, during op and post-op procedure documentation; before and after reports; reimbursement claims; unique or rare conditions; consultation at the peer-level; referrals to experts; and patient take homes for monitoring.
Even as the company focuses on a few markets like wound care, it is mindful of a variety of other uses – from documenting changes at a construction site to monitoring a crime scene.
“Joe has built a platform,” Miller says. “Because we are focusing in on healthcare for now, we are leaving commercial market applications for the future.”
With new products ready for release to the market, a business plan structured for scalability, and hundreds of leads, Ortiz may have caught the wave that he had been awaiting.