“In Australia we restrict access to (MRI diagnosis) and, at every election, we see the major parties exchange MRI licenses for votes. So, if you can’t afford access to services like X-rays and ultrasounds, announcements around more MRI licenses (are) going to do nothing to reduce your hip-pocket pain.”
Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association president, Siavash Es’haghi, denouncing an apparent MRI buying “arms race” taking place between the country’s main political parties as a way to “buy votes.” This was one of the big political stories of the week in Australia…
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Samsung to Sell IVF Biz, (maybe) Focus on Imaging
Reports from Korea reveal that Samsung is in negotiations to sell its in-vitro diagnostic unit to Japanese medical firm, Nipro, as part of a plan to sharpen its focus on medical imaging and take advantage of synergies across divisions (IVF doesn’t have synergies with most Samsung tech). That’s one side of the story – the other more interesting side is that this is rumored to be the first step in Samsung’s effort to sell-off its entire medical division by mid-2019 (reports: ultrasound going to Philips, X-ray to an unnamed Chinese firm) and the IVF division is just the first to sell. Samsung of course denied this rumor, but the Korean giant has certainly proven in the past that it is willing to sell once-prioritized divisions (e.g. printers/copiers, hard drives) and although it’s possible that this IVF sale is part of an increased focus on medical imaging, there’s also a chance that Samsung’s main medical “focus” is on getting out of this business.
Shimadzu and Change Healthcare Launch Cardiac Partnership
Shimadzu Medical Systems USA and Change Healthcare Cardiology launched a partnership that will allow Shimadzu and its resellers to offer Change’s Cardiology Hemo hemodynamic monitoring system (formerly known as McKesson Cardiology Hemo) combined with its Trinias angiography systems as a cath lab package. In the announcement, Shimadzu highlighted the growing demand for cardiac care and positioned the combined Trinias/Cardiology Hemo solution as a way for providers to add a complete interventional lab “while maintaining financial responsibility.” Angiography/hemodynamic partnerships such as this are relatively common among manufacturers without their own branded hemodynamic solutions, as Shimadzu previously worked with Mennen Medical and McKesson/Change previously partnered with Toshiba (Canon/Toshiba is now with Merge).
The Australia MRI Arms Race
Australian government funding for new MRI machines took an interesting political twist recently, as the country’s Prime Minister pledged to invest $175 million AUD ($127m USD) for 30 new MRIs just days after the competing Labor party made a similar MRI-funding promise. Maybe this is what politicians focus on when their country doesn’t have guns, any boarders, private healthcare, or a debt problem. Either way, this $175 million pledge was quickly criticized by the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association as “political window dressing” in a healthcare funding “arms race” that is intended to buy votes but will do little to reduce the cost of MRI scans for the public. The association called for increased Medicare rebates for scans as an alternative to these new machines, which seems reasonable, although it’s still fascinating that this is one of the top political stories of the week in Australia.
- Washington University researchers developed a new MRI imaging technique that allows clinicians to understand the presence and type of brain cells in a patient and may lead to new ways to diagnose a range of neurologic diseases (Alzheimer’s, MS, TBI, autism). Here’s an oversimplified version of how – the researchers identified a brain signal in MRI scans called R2t and found that the parts of the brain with strong R2t signals have a high number of brain cells with strong connections, while the parts of the brain with weak R2t signals had fewer cells and weaker connections.
- BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will expand Medicare to cover cardiac PET later this year, following pressure from Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) and the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology. Cardiac PET will be approved for: planning epilepsy surgery, imaging adult abdominal lymph node lesions if a previous biopsy was negative or inconclusive, imaging a pediatric mediastinal mass prior to a biopsy if lymphoma is suspected or there is evidence of tracheal compression.
- Russian researchers discovered that photoplethysmography, a noninvasive imaging technique with an extremely long name that measures pulse wave velocity, can provide information on the regulation of peripheral blood flow. The researchers believe that photoplethysmography may help scientists understand the interaction between light and the circulatory system and could lead to a range of new vascular applications.
- InSightec announced that its MRI-guided focused ultrasound system gained Medicare coverage for the treatment of essential tremor nine new states (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio), increasing total coverage to 25 states and closing-in on its 38-state target. InSightec previously added six Medicare-covered states in July and ten states in April.
- Agfa will unveil an updated version of its MUSICA Workstation at RSNA that appears to offer a revamped user interface and streamlined workflows, and may bring other generational improvements. Positioned by Agfa as the “nerve center” of the imaging environment (vs. MUSICA software’s role as the “brain”), the MUSICA Workstation supports DR/CR general radiography, fluoroscopy, mammography, and full leg/full spine (FLFS) imaging through a single interface and supports RIS and PACS connectivity for workflow automation.
- The ACR and a range of patient and industry groups are calling on Congress to pass the CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act, that if passed would ensure Medicare coverage for CT Colonography screening (aka CTC and virtual colonoscopy). The groups emphasize that CTC is recommended by the American Cancer Society, is found to both raise screening rates and lower costs, and would benefit marginalized groups who are often under-screened for colon cancer. Insurers are required to cover CTC in 37 states, just not by Medicare yet.
- Korean researchers developed a deep learning algorithm capable of detecting malignant pulmonary nodules on chest x-rays better than physicians, while finding that physician performance improved when they used the algorithm as a second reader.
- Esaote and the BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Italy developed a robotic cell used to evaluate and certify the effectiveness of ultrasound probes, potentially streamlining a quality control step that is traditionally manual. The robotic cell includes an arm with a gripper that can verify the correct position of the probes with the help of an operator, allowing testers to capture more quality control data with less time/effort.
- Philips and Dallas’ Children’s Health signed a patient monitoring and PACS deal that could be valued at $75 million over up to 15 years. The announcement largely emphasized Philips’ patient monitoring solutions, and it’s unclear how much of a role Philips’ PACS and overall imaging business will have in this deal.
- Qure.ai announced the results of a new validation study that its qXR algorithm (originally trained on a record-setting 1.2 million X-rays) can identify 15 different chest Z-ray abnormalities with over 90% accuracy. The study tested the qXR algorithm’s results on 2,000 de-identified and anonymized X-rays against a 3-radiologist panel, and used the announcement to suggest that qXR would help automate radiologist workflows.
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- Yale University research reveals that the average patient drives past SIX lower-priced providers on the way to an imaging procedure, due in large part to patients’ and physicians’ limited cost consciousness. Medmo helps address this issue by letting patients enter the price they can afford for their scan, then booking them at a nearby imaging center willing to accept that price.
- The Focused Ultrasound Foundation’s 2018 State of the Field Report documents the technology’s progress over the last year, with details on research and regulatory status, as well as insights into the various treatments being developed.
- In this Carestream video, an orthopedic surgeon opens up about why he decided to add the OnSight 3D Extremity System and how his practice benefits from the weight bearing CT.
- POCUS Systems is now approved as a Veteran Owned Business with the US Government Office of Veterans Business Development, paving the way for partnerships with the federal healthcare delivery systems.