“The fabric of medical and surgical care will collapse unless more is done to increase the number of home-grown radiologists.”
Royal College of Radiologists president, Nicola Strickland, MD, sounding the alarm about the UK NIH’s growing radiologist shortage.
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UK NIH’s Radiology Workforce Crisis
A widening undersupply of radiologists combined with a 30% increase in radiology workload since 2012, led the UK NHS to double its radiology outsourcing spending over the last three years, from $74 million in 2015 to $150 million in 2017. The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) isn’t making light of this “crisis,” especially considering that the UK national health system is forecast to have a 1,600-radiologist shortage by 2022. The RCR emphasized the need to retain the current radiology workforce and produce more trainees, pointing out the irony that plenty of young doctors in the UK want to enter radiology, but there is not enough funding to train them (probably because all that money is going to outsourcing). The RCR is unlikely to make this suggestion, but the NIH’s radiology workforce shortage makes it a prime candidate for time-saving imaging AI solutions.
Ultrasound Market Evolving, Growing
Analysis from IHS Markit revealed strong recent and future growth in the global ultrasound market, going from just above $6 billion in 2016 to nearly $8 billion in 2022. The firm highlighted an overall evolution taking place within the modality, driving increased adoption across most clinical segments with particularly strong growth in cardiology, point-of-care (anesthesia, critical care, emergency medicine, musculoskeletal, and primary care), and non-traditional applications (interventional cardiology, surgery, and interventional radiology). IHS Markit’s coverage includes plenty of insights and a useful chart that are worth checking out.
Just Like Tetris
A team from the University of Adelaide in Australia revealed a potential breakthrough in breast cancer detection, while giving the research world a lesson in how to generate press coverage (describe your research with a with a fun and understandable analogy). The Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML) scientists are developing a new deep learning-based automated medical image analysis program for breast tumor detection that they claim mimics Tetris’ traversal movement to examine MRI scans. The program uses a green square to search breast images for lesions, changing to red if a lesion is detected, and achieving 1.78 faster speeds than existing breast cancer detection methods.
The Atlantic Explores Medicare for All… And Trashes Hospital Economics
A recent editorial from The Atlantic explored the prospect of Medicare for All, along with the various health insurance ideas and experiments that exist, concluding that Medicare for All (or really any national health insurance/care system) is a fantasy unless the US fixes its hospital cost structure problem. The editorial highlighted the US’ excessive number of hospitals and high hospital bed vacancies (especially in rural areas), suggesting that the need for locally accessible emergency care has been confused as a need for local hospitals, many of which are now kept afloat by Medicare reimbursements (and try to get as much reimbursements as possible). Although The Atlantic held off on endorsing any particular healthcare plan, it did propose an approach that prioritizes subsidies for those who need them most, while adopting a “heavier government hand” with healthcare providers that survive by exploiting Medicare.
- Samsung Medison unveiled the company’s new SonoSync ultrasound communication software at the EUROSON 2018 show in Poland, beginning a rollout to select global regions. SonoSync allows multiple clinicians to simultaneously view real-time ultrasound images and share markings while sonographers are performing the examination.
- Precision medicine company, Tempus, secured $110 million in Series E financing, increasing its total fundraising to $320 million (giving it a massive $2b valuation), and fueling its expansion into new therapeutic areas and geographies. Tempus boasts the “world’s largest library of molecular and clinical data,” applying its machine learning, sequencing, and AI-assisted image recognition technology to help physicians deliver personalized patient care.
- Carestream launched the 2nd generation of its Metal Artifact Reduction Software (CMAR 2) intended for use with its OnSight 3D Extremity CT system, introducing a range of improvements (workflow, volumetric post-processing compatibility with PACS, and compliance with NEMA XR-29 standards). CMAR 2 is offered free of charge to all OnSight 3D customers and can be configured with optional modules for enhanced metal artifact reduction and administrative analysis and reporting.
- Cambridge Consultants and Exact Imaging announced a partnership that combines Exact Imaging’s ExactVu micro-ultrasound platform with Cambridge Consultants’ ML/DL technology to develop a better way to visualize and detect prostate cancer. The companies noted that current prostate cancer detection procedures yield a 30% false negative rate, due in part to low imaging resolution, suggesting that the combination of ExactVu’s higher-resolution images and Cambridge’s AI tools, should improve diagnosis and could lead to future commercial software applications.
- Just weeks after announcing its launch, Illinois-based medical imaging sales and service company, HealthMed360, bolstered its imaging parts operations with the acquisition of high-end parts service company, Vector Medical Imaging.
- French researchers developed a machine learning algorithm that can predict patient response to immunotherapy using their CT scans. The algorithm extracts biological and clinical information from CT scans to create a radiomic signature that defines a tumor’s level of lymphocyte infiltration and creates a predictive immunotherapy effectiveness score.
- The International Contrast Ultrasound Society (ICUS) called on medical centers to start allowing qualified sonographers to administer ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs), rather than relying on RNs or doctors for this step. The group warned that this policy and resulting inefficiencies, may lead to treatment delays and drive unnecessary use of “big box” imaging systems with higher costs and greater radiation risks.
- If you didn’t pick it up from the previous story, the International Contrast Ultrasound Society (ICUS) is leaning in on its goal to take procedural share from other modalities. The contrast ultrasound group promoted a study highlighting the advantages of contrast enhanced ultrasound for patients with liver or kidney masses, suggesting that the procedure produces “excellent images of tumors,” at much lower cost than CT or MRI, and without the radiation or the delays to view images. The group cited a medical center that saved $117,000 annually by using contrast enhanced ultrasound in initial scans to detect liver and kidney lesions (vs. starting with CT or MRI), alluding to the potential savings if an entire healthcare system adopted contrast enhanced ultrasound for this first step application.
- Signify Research revealed that the perpetual license structure (one-time purchase, with annual service) currently dominates all medical imaging AI business models (~80% of revenue). However, subscription plans and fee-per-study AI models are seeing rising adoption among both software vendors and healthcare providers and are expected to achieve significant growth over the study’s 7 years (forecasted to reach ~70% of revenue).
- The FDA launched the Quality in 510(k) Review (Quik) pilot program, intended to expedite the regulatory clearance of a list of 40 moderate-risk medical devices, including stationary X-rays and MRIs, that could reduce decision time from 90 days to 60 days.
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- Carestream’s focus is on delivering innovation that is life changing—for patients, customers, employees, communities and other stakeholders. The company’s international team of experts is committed to serving the radiology and enterprise IT needs of a broad range of healthcare providers.
- The Focused Ultrasound Foundation’s goal is to improve the lives of millions of people with serious medical disorders by accelerating the development and adoption of focused ultrasound. The early-stage, non-invasive therapeutic technology could transform the treatment of many medical disorders, serving as an alternative to surgery and radiation.
- Medmo offers a new marketplace that lets underinsured patients name the price they can afford for a scan, connecting them with imaging providers who have unsold excess capacity and are willing to accept their price. Click here for more information.
- POCUS Systems is a Point of Care Ultrasound startup founded by a team of POCUS veterans with a vision to disrupt the industry with next generation technology featuring interventional guidance and Artificial Intelligence (Ai) enabled diagnoses.