xWave Technologies: Digital transformation for radiology referrals

28 Apr 2021

Mitchell O’Gorman, CEO and co-founder, xWave Technologies. Image: Nick Bradshaw/Fotonic

Health-tech start-up xWave Technologies was formed just as healthcare systems around the world received an urgent dose of digital transformation.

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“The vision of xWave Technologies is to deliver smart healthcare platforms that empower patients and their clinicians to access the best healthcare solutions at the touch of a button,” said CEO Mitchell O’Gorman.

This Dublin-based health-tech start-up has already raised €600,000 in pre-seed funding, primarily from medical and business professionals. “This has allowed us to develop the platform, implement inside hospitals and set the stage for rapid growth,” O’Gorman added.

That platform is xRefer, a radiology referral tool that xWave has developed in partnership with the European Society of Radiology.

‘Covid-19 has been a huge challenge for the Irish health sector, but it has also accelerated the adoption of innovative solutions’

O’Gorman explained that the rapid pace of advancement in medical imaging makes the landscape increasingly complex for doctors to navigate and to refer patients for “the best test first”.

“The lack of efficiency in the delivery and provision of radiology services is a significant problem and is pervasive globally,” he said. “There are many instances in which the scan chosen by a doctor for a patient is not the optimum scan to arrive at the correct diagnosis in the most efficient manner. This can lead to delayed diagnosis, unnecessary imaging and increased cost.”

According to O’Gorman, xWave Technologies’ ‘best test first’ approach can ensure earlier diagnosis, earlier treatment intervention, improved patient outcomes and reduced costs.

The cloud-based xRefer platform lets users send referrals from either a computer or mobile device. A search function helps clinicians determine the most appropriate scan to suit the patient by searching for key terms related to their condition. They can then send a request to any service providing that particular scan.

The clinical guidance within the system is underpinned by the European Society of Radiology’s iGuide. On the other end of the request, radiology teams can also vet and protocol referrals on the platform, with push notifications delivered through the xRefer app.

The target market for xRefer encompasses public and private hospitals, primary care settings and GPs, and private imaging centres. “Initially, we will be targeting the Irish and UK health systems, but our strategic partnership with the European Society of Radiology means that we will also be targeting the wider European market within our first three years,” said O’Gorman.

‘Coming to another industry has allowed me to look at some of the challenges of healthcare through a slightly different lens’

XWave is headquartered at NovaUCD, the innovation and entrepreneurship hub at University College Dublin.

But O’Gorman’s background is neither in health nor tech. He was previously MD of the media division at Kantar Ireland, the market research agency, and before that he served as head of innovation at Independent News and Media. However, he has paired his experience with digital transformation in the media industry with a team of co-founders bringing their own expertise to the table.

Prof Ronan Killeen, clinical director at xWave, is a consultant radiologist with St Vincent’s Healthcare Group and head of radiology for the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. Consultant CTO Mark Kearns is also CEO of Irish software development company Threadable.io. And, finally, co-founder number four is Colin Keane, a chartered accountant and partner with Gallagher Keane.

“Our founding investor group also includes a number of leading Irish medical professionals,” said O’Gorman.

This health-tech CEO has embraced the challenge of entering a whole new industry with xWave and said it gives him the advantage of a fresh perspective. “Coming to another industry does also carry its own benefits and has allowed me to look at some of the challenges of healthcare through a slightly different lens, especially when it comes to being user-centric, building simplicity into our technology and the importance of strategic partnerships,” he said.

Starting a business from your attic is hard in any given year. But with the added difficulty brought on by a global pandemic, O’Gorman has found his first steps with xWave to be “hugely challenging”.

“It hasn’t been possible to access hospitals during the past year, for obvious reasons,” he said. “It is also quite challenging for a start-up to access the Irish public health system in a meaningful way.”

On the bright side, the Covid-19 pandemic has given the healthcare sector a much-needed push in the direction of digital transformation. “Covid-19 has been a huge challenge for the Irish health sector, but it has also accelerated the adoption of innovative solutions from Irish start-ups, supported by the likes of Health Innovation Hub Ireland and the HSE digital transformation team. We’re lucky to be part of that,” said O’Gorman.

Overall, the xWave CEO believes the Irish start-up scene has a lot to offer in the digital health space, and this latest shift could be transformative for the indigenous health-tech sector.

“Typically, it has been easier for Irish digital health start-ups to access the UK market via NHS trusts and procurement frameworks, like the G-Cloud 12 framework that we are on. But I can see that changing now as more Irish start-ups are able to demonstrate their impact on their home market.”

‘After you’ve built your solution to the problem you are solving, you still need to keep users at the core’

xWave turned one year old this month and within that first year the company has gone live with xRefer in its first Irish hospital.

“The data that we are already seeing from our first customer is stunning. We have seen a positive impact on the appropriateness of the radiology referrals their clinicians are sending and we have also reduced their referral transit time – the time it takes to create, vet, protocol and send a referral – by 99.6pc,” said O’Gorman.

“We recently secured a contract with our second Irish hospital, started technical discussions with the world’s fastest-growing teleradiology company with a view to creating a strategic partnership and are in advanced negotiations with our first NHS trust,” he added.

As well as Health Innovation Hub Ireland and the HSE, xWave has received support from Enterprise Ireland. As the company continues to strive for growth in 2021, O’Gorman aims to seek further investment later in the year. New funding will go towards sourcing engineering talent to further develop xWave’s technology to cover scheduling, payments and reporting, and sales executives to support expansion in overseas markets.

“There has to be an obsession with the customer problem at the heart of everything you do,” said O’Gorman. “After you’ve built your solution to the problem you are solving, you still need to keep users at the core of how you improve your product or service. If they don’t like it, they won’t use it, no matter how useful it might be.”

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.