From a start-up to a leading medical technology company – in merely four years: Stefan Baur and Alexander Strifler have developed a very sophisticated IT service for the medical imaging field, with which they are quite successful. We met up for an interview in the CUBEX41 start-up center, located on the site of the Mannheim university hospital.
Hi Alexander! What exactly does QIT do?
Alexander Strifler: We mainly support medical facilities in the radiological field. This field requires a lot of support regarding digital image archiving. A single CT examination for example will produce 500 to 800 individual images. These images must be saved, visualized and archived for future use. What we offer is a kind of all-round carefree package for radiologists – be it for single or large-scale practices, hospital units or research institutions.
At the dentists office one will usually be handed an X-ray film. Are you also involved in that area?
Alexander: We are! These images also require archiving. If the machine is not already producing digital output, the images will be put through a scanner to digitize them.
Stefan Baur: Modern digital diagnostics don’t rely on single images any longer. CT and MRT examinations produce hundreds of images. When the physicians scroll through these images a motion sequence is generated, which significantly improves the quality of the analysis.
And this is what your business idea is built upon?
Alexander: QITs business model is based on the fact that nowadays not only radiologists apply medical imaging technology. By now the tech developed in the radiological field, which includes image formats and communication protocols, is being used in other areas as well. Let me give an example: Should a pathologist purchase a microscope, today it will likely be using digital tech. The visual representation of cellular structures will be produced through the same image formatting originally developed in the radiological field. This is the reason we prefer calling what we do medical imaging. Anyone producing images is a potential client for us.
You founded your business in the CUBEX41 start-up center in 2014, but you guys aren’t really new to the field. Correct?
Alexander: That’s right. Stefan and I have been working in the IT area of medical imaging for some time now. With our previous employer we both gained well over ten years of experience in the imaging business. With QIT we basically just built upon the ideas we had developed beforehand. With this in mind, we aren’t really the typical start-up. Our previous employer was a management service provider for radiologists, and we helped build up the IT department. At that time Stefan was my boss. The company was not interested in further developing the matter, so we provided the service independently. We wanted to offer more than only archiving options. By today we offer an IT standard, which is adapted to the needs of medical imaging professionals. In this field one really needs to know how things work, or you’re really going to have a hard time.
QIT is one of the leading businesses in the field now. What is the key to your success?
Stefan: There are many system service providers around, but only few of them offer specialized solutions for the radiological field.
Why is that?
Alexander: The groundwork is complicated and doesn’t mesh well with big corporations. Big firms have rigid structures, that don’t allow them to adapt well to the requirements of the field. Thus they can’t really make profits in these areas and are glad if someone like us is there to take care of things.
Stefan: In the environment of a practice there are many hardware assets to take into account: printers, phones, smart devices. In such a situation the first thing you have to do is evaluate how old and how secure the devices are. Most businesses aren’t interested in taking care of such things – they just want to sell new products.
And this is where you guys step in to save the day, with an all-round carefree service solution?
Alexander: We like to see this process as “tidying up”. The first step is finding out what our clients initial situation looks like and what steps are next. With this info we will then put together a sustainable system for them. We don’t supply every part of the system, but we offer complete support. We supply the finished systems, the required service, and most importantly, complete documentation, so that our clients can take care of their obligations to cooperate to the suppliers.
So you could say that QIT does a check-up on the practices and feels the radiologists pulse?
Alexander: A charming analogy! And, yes. Though we tend not to surgically intervene. We act more as a contact in the event of any problems and provide assistance. We visit the sites in person, to get an idea of what is required. During these visits we will often find out where the problems are. After this come a kind of inventory, and after that the consulting process. As we have been doing this for a while, we quickly develop proposals or present best-practice examples.
What led you to set up shop in CUBEX41, the start-up center for medical technologies in Mannheim?
Alexander: We profit from the direct connection to the university hospital. It’s a great place to recruit fresh talent and work-study students have been a part of QIT from the beginning. All this has been very helpful, and would have not have been possible without the contacts we have here. This was something that really surprised us in a positive way.
Stefan: CUBEX41 is state-of-the-art and offers everything that a start-up in the medical field requires. Aside from that, Martina Klotzbach of Startup Mannheim is the most committed center manager in the world! No matter what you need, nothing is ignored here. She takes care of everything around here.
Interview: Paul Heesch / LA.MAG
Photos: Julian Beekmann