A digital health care concept based in downtown Greenville has caught the eye of one of the world’s leading tech companies.
Ohio-based Hitachi Healthcare America’s Corp., an affiliate of Japan-based Hitachi Ltd., recently announced it has acquired Vidistar, headquartered at 204 Westfield St. near the Kroc Center.
Vidistar, founded in 2005 by Craig Walker, is the developer of a web-based diagnostic viewer and patented structured reporting solution for medical imaging and clinical decision support.
Financial terms of the deal, which closed Jan. 4, were not disclosed.
Walker, who will continue with Vidistar as its general manager, described the deal as a “win-win” for his company and Hitachi Healthcare Americas because it will enable Vidistar to continue to grow with the support from a large corporation.
“We’ve continued to be successful, but I knew that in order to be a major player, we needed a big name with synergistic capabilities,” Walker said. “With Hitachi, there’s no overlap.”
Walker said Vidistar is in the process of renovating the second floor of its headquarters located in a former automotive garage. When the work is complete, Vidistar will occupy 10,000 square feet.
The company currently has 20 employees in the downtown space. Walker said he plans to hire at least 10 more in the coming months.
“It’s very exciting,” said Walker, a native of Houston, Texas, who relocated to Greenville with his family in 2005. “Hitachi is a great company, and I believe this will help us better serve our clients.”
“We will work together to create the next generation of health care informatics and analytics solutions so providers and health care professionals can take full advantage of the power of informatics,” he added.
Walker said the deal had been in the works for about a year.
He said he had hired AGC, an investment bank advisory group out of Boston that specializes in digital health care.
Walker said Vidistar uses Hitachi’s Pentaho platform for its data mining and analytics.
“Everything just fell into place,” he said.
With the diagnostic and analytical solutions working in unison, Walker said Vidistar has been able to distinguish itself in the market by providing physicians with detailed information.
He said that’s invaluable to physicians who need to show that their patients are having better outcomes, or in need of earning or maintaining their accreditation.
“This acquisition will add significant talent and expertise in expanding our Healthcare Informatics business at Hitachi,” said Yasuhiko Taniguchi, CEO of Hitachi Healthcare Americas. “As the health care market transitions from volume to value-based care, structured reporting and advanced analytics will play a critical role in enabling and supporting this transition.”
Walker earned his bachelor of arts degree from Millsaps College and his master’s degree in health administration from Texas State University in San Marcos.
Early in his career, Walker worked in politics and served on the staff of several prominent Texas leaders, including former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and state Rep. Patricia Gray.
He lived in Washington, D.C., for a time and lobbied for rural health care systems in Texas and the Bison Association.
In the mid-1990s, he was working on a project aimed at reducing low birth weights. Part of his job was to transmit fetal ultrasound images to consulting physicians.
But it wasn’t until he and his wife, Bianca, were expecting their first child, a son, Liam, that he became inspired to impact the health care market with tech.
Walker explained that Liam had prenatal hydronephrosis, meaning his kidneys were enlarged.
He said he found himself “snail mailing” VHS tapes of ultrasounds to a medical specialist in order to get a second opinion.
Walker said he asked the specialist if there was any way to send the videos via the internet.
“I asked him, does anything like that exist?” he said. “He said, ‘No. You ought to invent it.’”
At the time, Walker was working for a telehealth company in Fort Worth. He began working on a plan.
The idea took root after Walker was able to recruit an engineer from Poland who had come to the U.S. through a program introduced by former President George W. Bush that was meant to encourage collaboration between the two countries.
By 2004, Walker was working out of the garage of his home in Austin in hopes of launching his company.
It was then that he heard about funding available through the South Carolina Research Authority’s SC Launch program.
He applied for the funding, pitched his concept, and was awarded some capital, the first of two awards he received to start the company.
With funding secured and a few business partners already in South Carolina, Walker said it “made sense” to bring his company to the Palmetto State.
In 2005, he decided to relocate to Greenville with his family and launch Vidistar.
Liam overcame his kidney issues and is now a standout swimmer at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. The couple also has a daughter, Sylvia.