Box just announced plans to develop services for vertical industries a month ago and today it's showing it's serious about that plan. The company said it is buying MedXT, the developer of a service for viewing, sharing, and collaborating on medical images.
The companies said that MedXT's technology for sharing DICOM files would be integrated into Box. DICOM is a file format used to share medical imaging files, like X-ray images.
MedXT has already done the heavy lifting required to comply with federal regulations including HIPAA. It's also been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for use in diagnostic imaging.
In a blog post explaining the acquisition, Box CEO Aaron Levie wrote that IT in the medical industry is ripe for improvement. Historically, the industry has focused on back office systems and documentation products with poor workflow and sharing capabilities, he wrote. Those systems are typically separate from those that handle medical images. MedXT's founders "recognized the opportunity to securely bridge the gap between the equipment that radiologists and technicians are using to capture data, and the people they ultimately need to share that data with," he wrote.
Healthcare was one of three industries, in addition to retail and media and entertainment, that Box said in September it would focus on first as part of its decision to deliver targeted products and services. The company said it realized through working with customers that many industries have unique challenges, around laws, work force demands, and specific data needs. Box said it planned to create tailored solutions for many different verticals, also including education, advertising, energy, construction, and government.
It's a curious move for Box to buy MedXT rather than simply encourage an integration. Box, like DropBox, has been positioning its service as a platform that third parties can build on. While DropBox has talked about a similar strategy, it has also acquired a number of companies so that it can offer certain services directly. That strategy can worry third-party developers who may be concerned that eventually the platform may compete directly with their own services.
There are other services for sharing DICOM images online so it appears that Box will be competing with them. However, Box may have determined that DICOM viewing is a niche enough application that it was willing to potentially discourage others from using its platform to build DICOM viewing apps.
Box seems aware of the fine line it has to walk as it decides about acquisitions like this one. In his blog post, Levie emphasized that the company needs partners. "While the core Box product will continue to address a broad range of horizontal use cases, it's our platform and ecosystem that will support all-new capabilities for industries. As such, we will rely heavily on a vast number of strategic partners and a developer ecosystem to enable robust enterprise workflows, improved data capture and unique experiences for our customers," he wrote.
It remains to be seen if that will calm any fears that third parties might have about building on the Box platform.