King of Prussia-based Greenphire is one of the many small companies trying to make its way in the often-unseen world of pharmaceutical and device clinical trial communications.

Unless they or a family member have a disease, most people only volunteer to be subjects in a clinical trial if they are getting paid. But that means they actually have to be paid. The patients and the clinics also need to communicate and remind each other of issues.

Greenphire was started in 2007 to try to provide that service to companies, academic research facilities and contract research organizations doing trials.

The company is at the stage where it is striking partnerships and deals with venture capital firms and others in the industry to stay afloat and gain a bigger spot in the game.

Greenphire just struck a deal with Chicago-based Merge Healthcare to serve related clinic with web-based tools.

"Our alliance with Merge enables us to collaboratively bring an innovative and complementary set of technologies to the clinical research industry, driving additional efficiency to sponsors, CROs and sites on a global basis," said Greenphire CEO Sam Whitaker in a statement.

Whitaker graduated from Penn with a degree in philosophy, and worked for Citigroup previously. So did co-founder and chief operating officer John Samar, who graduated from Lehigh.

If Greenphire is a fledgling company, Merge is trying to rebuild after a 2009 accounting scandal involving previous executives. The SEC announcement is here.

"This partnership demonstrates that Merge is committed to addressing the needs of our clinical trials customers, specifically those who have asked for an integrated site payment system for their clinical programs," Jeff Surges, current CEO of Merge Healthcare, said in a statement. "We're looking forward to working with Greenphire and to improving workflow processes and efficiencies for our clients."