The headline for GE Healthcare’s new online ad announcing the Vscan Extend handheld ultrasound’s price drop to just $2,995.
Imaging Wire Sponsors
- Carestream – Focused on delivering innovation that is life changing – for patients, customers, employees, communities and other stakeholders.
- Focused Ultrasound Foundation – Accelerating the development and adoption of focused ultrasound.
- Medmo – Helping underinsured Americans save on medical scans by connecting them to imaging providers with unfilled schedule time.
- OpenMarkets – A marketplace for healthcare equipment, used by hundreds of hospitals and suppliers to buy and sell imaging equipment in the most efficient way possible.
- Pocus Systems – A new Point of Care Ultrasound startup, combining a team of POCUS veterans with next-generation technology to disrupt the industry.
The Imaging Wire
Opening AI’s Black Box
Researchers from Yale University developed a 3D CNN algorithm that outperforms radiologists in classifying liver lesions in MRI scans, which is a pretty typical study result these days, but stands out for its ability to explain its findings to radiologists. The CNN model achieved greater average accuracy (92% vs. 80% to 85%), sensitivity (92% vs. 82.5%), and specificity (98% vs. 96.5%) versus a pair of radiologists in the study (296 patients, 494 lesions), while helping to overcome the “black box” nature of AI by explaining the reasoning behind its findings. It’s this last “black box” part that is of particular value, as the algorithm’s ability to explain its findings are expected to improve accuracy and build trust in AI applications in clinical settings, helping to drive adoption.
GE and Spectrum Dynamics’ SPECT Fight
Spectrum Dynamics filed a lawsuit against GE Healthcare, claiming that the healthcare giant “deliberately, repeatedly and with fraudulent intent” misappropriated its intellectual property, resulting in GE filing patents for technology that were eventually used in Spectrum Dynamics’ VERITON SPECT system. Spectrum Dynamics seeks to stop GE from “developing, commercializing or otherwise using” this IP as well as to correct “inventorship” on the GE patents in question. GE of course didn’t comment on these charges, but it has a formidable legal team and will be ready for a fight if it believes it has a case. There certainly appears to be some shared DNA between Spectrum Dynamics and GE Healthcare’s SPECT lines, as they both use dedicated cardiac CZT cameras, Spectrum Dynamics lists GE’s Discovery SPECT systems as predicate devices in its FDA filings, and both Spectrum Dynamics and GE’s SPECT division have long histories in Israel’s nuclear imaging industry.
A Win for Patient Centric Imaging
Swedish researchers notched another win for patient centricity, publishing a study (n=3,532) that suggests cardiovascular disease patients who are shown their atherosclerosis ultrasound scans and are supported with follow-ups are more likely to make risk-reducing lifestyle changes than patients who don’t see their scans or receive follow-ups. This makes sense. The study’s 1,749 “intervention group” patients were shown an image of plaque formation in their arteries (marked to compare biological and chronological age), followed by a call from a nurse to confirm understanding 2-4 weeks later, while the same ultrasound images were also shared with the patients’ primary care doctors. The study’s 1,783 unfortunate “control group” patients did not view their ultrasound results nor receive any additional communication efforts. As expected, one-year follow-ups revealed that the interventional group patients significantly out-performed the control group in FRS scores (-0.58 vs. +0.35), SCORE levels (0.27 vs. 0.13), and total and LDL cholesterol. Although this study has more direct clinical implications, it brings to mind a recent study from University of Washington Seattle that found patients view learning about their imaging results as a valuable part of their healthcare journey.
Little GE Vscan Extend’s Big Price Drop
Americans within GE Healthcare’s digital marketing reach recently learned that the company’s once-$8,000+ Vscan Extend handheld ultrasound systems were reduced to a $2,995 starting price. Chances are they learned about this price cut in numerous ways, including remarketing ads on non-radiology/medical websites, posts on GE’s Twitter feed, and even through paid Google search ads. There’s not a lot of pricing-related news in radiology, which makes sense given the nature of the specialty, but this price cut and associated marketing push is a great example of the key role pricing currently plays in the handheld ultrasound space. This trend has particularly intensified since the emergence of low-cost systems like the $1,000 Butterfly iQ, placing competitive pressure on medical imaging’s major players who’ve largely kept their handhelds north of $6,000. Although GE’s price cut could be seen as a testament to the pressure Butterfly and other startups have been able to create, any pride they feel from GE’s reaction may be overshadowed by the challenges price drops like this pose against Butterfly and other handheld players’ low-cost value proposition.
Ultrasound, the Superior DBT Follow-Up
Mayo Clinic researchers found that ultrasound assessments may be a sufficient follow-up after digital breast tomosynthesis screening identifies suspicious masses, potentially making follow-up mammograms unnecessary. The study (n=212) found no significant difference between ultrasound post-DBT and 2D mammography, which has historically been the go-to follow-up after DBT, with diagnostic ultrasound serving as a third step. The researchers argue that eliminating this middle mammography step can help save costs, reduce radiation, and improve patient and workflow efficiency.
- In other bad news for 2D mammography, two studies presented at RSNA highlighted DBT’s screening and diagnostic advantages over mammography. On the screening side, a Yale-led study (n=45,251) among 40 to 54-year-old women found that DBT had much lower recall rates for all-aged women and greater cancer detection rates among women between 40 and 49 (but lower rates at 50-54 yrs). Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins researchers (n=10,845) found DBT significantly outperformed mammography in diagnosis, specifically for cancer detection (45.4% vs. 28.9%) and positive predictive value rates (34% vs. 21.3%).
- US healthcare spending grew by 3.9% in 2017 to $3.5 to trillion ($10,739 per person), marking the second straight year of slowing spending growth (2016: +4.8%, 2015: +5.8%), and returning growth to levels seen before health care expansion and during the great recession (2008-2013). The CMS healthcare spending report attributed the slowdown to drops in physician and clinical services (down 1.4 percentage points), hospital spending (down 1 point), and retail prescriptions (down 1.9 points).
- Fujifilm bolstered its China medical equipment business, investing about $53 million for a 9.56% stake in Yestar Healthcare Holdings. Yestar was already responsible for processing and marketing Fujifilm’s medical X-ray films, photographic products, and industrial films in China, and the investment is intended to expand the companies’ alliance to include Fujifilm’s medical equipment and solutions, with the potential to jointly develop China-targeted products in the future.
- A retrospective study (n=315) from Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Evidence-Based Imaging found that information in EHR imaging orders is often less complete (81% of all orders) and inconsistent with physician notes (42% of all orders), potentially impacting imaging exam planning, interpretation, and diagnosis accuracy. The study found the greatest order/notes discrepancy with radiologist interpretations (43%), far greater than for exam planning (8%).
- Elekta received 510(k) premarket approval for its Unity MR radiation therapy system, which allows clinicians to deliver radiation doses while visualizing the tumor and surrounding tissue through MR imaging (using Philips MRIs), following its CE clearance in June.
- A 3,500-physician survey from the American Medical Association found that radiology is the most prevalent specialty in telemedicine, leading all patient interactions (39.5%), coming in third place for interactions with other health care professionals (25.5%), and clearly leading the use of telemedicine to store and forward patient data (42.7%).
- Hitachi Medical Systems Europe launched the third generation of its intelligent Vector Flow Mapping (iVFM) intracardiac blood flow visualization technology, adding improvements to data processing, simplified workflows, and support for both intracardiac and vascular flow structures. iVFM is built on Hitachi’s LISENDO 880LE ultrasound system (available in Japan and EU) and is part of the company’s HDAnalytics CV analysis package (available in globally), suggesting that the third generation solution may expand to the US.
- Lost amid the pre-RSNA news was an interesting announcement that Mass General Hospital’s imaging lab partnered with Korean healthcare blockchain company, MediBloc. The 3-year project will focus on creating a standardized EHR data exchange and improving network stabilization to support health data sharing, integrating the MGH/Harvard LMIC Lab’s AI services for analyzing medical records and medical images.
- iCAD announced the FDA clearance of its ProFound AI digital breast tomosynthesis cancer detection software, trained to detect malignant soft-tissue densities and calcifications. The AI-based software’s clearance follows a clinical study with 24 radiologists who read 260 tomosynthesis cases with and without iCAD’s ProFound AI solution, resulting in increased cancer detection rates (+8% avg.), reduced false positives and patient recalls (-7% avg.), and a “significant decrease” in interpretation times (more than 50% avg.).
- Cambridge Consultants’ forthcoming DeepRay solution uses AI to improve distorted images by “learning” how images are supposed to look and then reconstructing them, potentially improving medical imaging data (as well as supporting a range of non-healthcare applications). DeepRay is the latest entry into AI-based image improvement space, as we’ve also seen similar efforts from NVIDIA and partners earlier this year.
The Resource Wire
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- Carestream’s DRX-Revolution Nano Mobile X-ray system may be part of the biggest-growth DR segment, but many of its strengths are the little things (small, light, and low price).
- The 6th Annual Focused Ultrasound Foundation Symposium was packed with valuable insights on the latest developments and future opportunities for focused ultrasound. Here’s a standout speech on how a wearable device could revolutionize Focused Ultrasound.
- POCUS Systems’ forthcoming ultrasounds will combine ease of use, durability, and reliability, allowing clinicians to focus on their patients.
- How much does an MRI scan cost? According to Medmo, that depends. Scans made with the exact same device on the exact same body part could cost $225 at one facility and $2,500 at another. Medmo also provides some advice to make sure patients don’t pay too much for their scans, including using the Medmo Marketplace where the average MRI costs between $225 and $700.
- In this recorded webinar, OpenMarkets customer, Luke Martin of Shannon Medical Center discusses how he works with OpenMarkets, with a particular focus on using the OpenMarkets platform to sell their used equipment.