Watson Cuts | Open Ultrasound Hack | Forbes’ GE Question

It’s just a natural reaction of the market to a high-cost service in hospitals,

– Anthem Health spokesman, Tony Felts, in defense of Anthem’s Colorado policy requiring that many imaging procedures are performed at an offsite facility (instead of in hospitals) and suggesting that the trend of insurers controlling where patients receive higher-cost care will continue.


The Imaging Wire

Widespread Layoffs in IBM Watson Health Unit
Reports of IBM Watson Health layoffs swept across business publications and online message boards last week, with most (maybe all) of the layoffs affecting employees within the healthcare analytics companies that IBM acquired in recent years (Truven, Merge, Phytel, Explorys). The layoffs appear to significantly alter the makeup of Watson Health, with some sources estimating that IBM eliminated 50% to 70% of all positions within the targeted teams (potentially an over-estimate), noting that IBM already cut 2/3rds of Truven’s contract workforce last summer. It’s difficult to forecast what the Watson Health unit will look like going forward, but it’s almost certain that IBM will offer a streamlined set of healthcare services (operated by a much smaller workforce) once the smoke clears.

 

The Open Source Ultrasound Hack
This is an interesting one. An “open source hardware hobbyist” submitted a design for an ultrasound board driver built on an open source FPGA (field-programmable gate array) circuit, that is (modestly) functional and is seen as a step towards opening-up the ultrasound hardware market. There are plenty of open source ultrasound projects, but most are focused on image processing and “not the exceptionally difficult problem of pinging a sensor at millions of times a second, listening for the echo, and running that through a very high speed ADC.” That’s what makes this new design significant. Good news for the current ultrasound leaders is, like other medical imaging innovations, this new ultrasound hardware development kit is not poised to impact the ultrasound market in the near term.

 

Forbes’ GE Question
GE account reps should consider tucking the latest issue of Forbes behind the other magazines in their clients’ waiting rooms. The publication explored “What the Hell Happened at GE?” in its June 1st issue, chronicling what it calls a GE’s “swift and dramatic . . . corporate meltdown” over the past 18 months and pondering what’s next for the iconic company. Forbes’ version of “what happened” largely pointed to former CEO Jeff Immelt’s poor capital allocation decisions, often buying-high and selling-low (companies, debt, stock), along with declines in the company’s operational execution, culture and management operations, and cash flow. The article left what will happen to GE far more open-ended, but clearly communicated that new CEO John Flannery understands that GE needs change and is open to selling-off parts of the company (and maybe much/all of the company) if necessary. According to Forbes, “whatever happens, Flannery has a good shot at becoming famous—as the guy who saved GE or the guy who broke it up.”

 

The Fight for Low-Dose CT Screening Coverage and Awareness
An industry coalition led by the American College of Radiology (ACR) formally requested that the CMS confirm that Medicare will reimburse low-dose CT lung cancer screenings performed at Independent Diagnostic Testing Facilities (IDTF). The coalition argues that inadequate Medicare reimbursement coverage and low physician awareness of screening guidelines “may be resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths each year.” The group also criticized CMS’ decision to cover diagnostic testing using non-contrast chest CTs, but not screening using low-dose chest CTs, suggesting that the line between diagnostics and screening is too narrow.

 


The Wire

  • Fujifilm signed a distribution agreement with a major Russian pharmaceutical company, JSC “R-Pharm,” to market and sell Fujifilm’s medical devices and dietary supplements in Russia, starting with Fujifilm’s X-ray systems and endoscopes this summer.
  • Canon Medical Research Europe joined Glasgow’s Clinical Innovation Zone, creating a presence at the Imaging Centre of Excellence (ICE) on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus that is intended to allow collaboration between Canon’s engineers and the zone’s experts, scientists, and academics.
  • Imagen Technologies gained FDA de novo clearance for its OsteoDetect software, which applies machine learning algorithms to identify regions of distal radius fractures in adult patients’ X-ray images.
  • IHS reported that global ultrasound revenues grew 7.6% in 2017 to $6.644 billion, driven by strong growth in the US and China (combined for 45% of market) and a return to growth in developing markets (Latin America, Eastern Europe, Mid East), while ultrasound sales remained flat in Europe, Japan, and Korea.
  • The FDA proposed a move to eliminate second appeals of FDA designations for medical product classifications (e.g. drug, device, or biologic-based designations), suggesting that the second appeals process is often confusing and rarely successful for parties requesting a new classification.
  • Sectra signed a multi-year PACS agreement with the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, providing a full suite of radiology functionality, a zero-footprint viewer, 3D toolset, and integration with the hospital’s existing Epic EMR.
  • P&S Market Research forecasts that the healthcare cognitive computing market will grow at an impressive 34% CAGR from 2017 to 2023 when it will reach $13.3 billion, driven by the increasing burden of chronic diseases, technological advancements in healthcare, and the rising use of third party computing platforms.
  • US-based radiology EMR access software company, Softek Illuminate, and French PACS data extraction firm, Medexprim, signed a partnership that will combine their products and allow the companies to offer the unified solution in their respective US and European markets.
  • Philips signed a unique seven-year and €40 million deal with the governments of Ethiopia and the Netherlands to build Ethiopia’s first specialized Cardiac Care Center, marking Philips’ first project to create a complete/turnkey hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac diseases.
  • German researchers found that the BPN machine learning technique was effective in predicting breast lesion malignancy, outperforming two “experienced” radiologists, suggesting that BPN may be effective due to its ability to emphasize important inputs and suppress irrelevant information.

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