“We may for the first time capture a full picture of human consciousness or even the essence of life itself.”
An unnamed physicist involved in China’s project to build the world’s strongest MRI, which has the potential to unlock the secrets behind Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and apparently may reveal the essence of life itself.
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- 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
Human Consciousness Imaging
Chinese scientists are working on what they expect will be the world’s most powerful brain scanner, able to generate a 14T magnetic field that’s strong enough to image the structure and activities of every neuron in a living human brain, capturing images as small as one micrometer (vs. 1,000 micrometers in today’s strongest MRIs). The 1 billion-yuan ($144.7m !!!) device will be able to track the chemicals that pass signals through the brain’s neural fiber networks (e.g. sodium, phosphorus, and potassium – not just hydrogen), potentially revolutionizing research on neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. However, as readers may have inferred from this story’s title, the scientists’ goals extend well beyond beating these awful diseases, and into human consciousness. As one scientist put it, the system may allow researchers to “capture a full picture of human consciousness or even the essence of life itself. Then we can define them and explain how they work in precise physical terms – just like Newton and Einstein defined and explained the universe.” There is still a lot this team has to figure out from a technological and biological perspective, but they deserve credit for their vision. Capturing “the essence of human life” is a pretty lofty goal, both scientifically and philosophically.
Why Doctors Hate Their Computers
“Something’s gone terribly wrong. Doctors are among the most technology-avid people in society; computerization has simplified tasks in many industries. Yet somehow we’ve reached a point where people in the medical profession actively, viscerally, volubly hate their computers.” This is from Dr. Atul Gawande’s incredibly deep dive (almost 9k words) into the impact of EHR proliferation in The New Yorker, detailing EHR’s damage done (physician burnout, alienated older doctors, lower patient volumes, less eye contact, signal fatigue, bored admins, and much more), where EHRs went wrong (change management, balancing unique needs of specialties and admins, and more), and the various hacks doctors have come up with to reclaim their time (hiring scribes, printing out cases in advance, switching to emergency medicine roles, and more). Dr. Gawande does balance out his coverage, acknowledging the benefits that EHRs can have on care and ending with a useful reminder that patients are trying to balance human and tech interaction in their own lives, too. This article also produced a lively Reddit debate for those interested in participating.
Nautilus Medical Goes Freemium
Nautilus Medical is now offering its complete portfolio of radiology software tools to all medical professionals and students… for free. Nautilus attributed its business model shift to the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s decision to approve sharing data sets and documentation for reanalysis and reuse, suggesting that making its software free will help providers afford adapting to this change. What’s the catch? Downstream revenue. Nautilus Medical was already experimenting with this model with its MatrixRay Image Exchange software, which is “free” but charges $1 per transfer, and the company has a solid hardware business that would benefit from a surge in new ‘freemium’ customers. We’ve also seen the freemium model adopted by Purview, which offers its DICOM viewer for free, generating its revenue from add-ons.
Prostate mpMRI Recommended in UK
The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) formally recommended using multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (mpMRI) as a first-line investigation for men with suspected prostate cancer, with the goals of reducing unnecessary biopsies and improving early detection. It didn’t take long for the Royal College of Radiologists to voice concerns about this recommendation, noting that although they support NICE’s recommendation, the UK’s aging MRI fleet (many not mpMRI-capable) and well-publicized radiologist shortage would not be able to handle the influx on prostate cancer scans. Although the UK’s radiologist shortage has arguably been a more prominent storyline, some may have noticed growing momentum around prostate imaging, with a new prostate screening program and a new prostate imaging partnership announced since the start of November.
- MIT researchers developed a ML technique that may allow low-light imaging of transparent tissues and cells, potentially supporting much lower-dose X-ray imaging (reducing harm to patient) and lower-light biological imaging (reducing damage to the specimen). The researchers first captured a very low-light photo of a glass etching, reconstructing it by combining a physics-based algorithm (somewhat effective on its own) with a ML algorithm trained on 10,000 grainy low-light images (also somewhat effective on its own) to create a relatively accurate representation of the original glass etching.
- Magnetic Particle Imaging system manufacturer, Magnetic Insight, completed an $18 million Series A round that it will use to expand its commercial and operations teams, scale its manufacturing, and develop new applications. Magnetic Particle Imaging is a novel in vivo imaging modality designed to detect magnetic tracers, allowing deep tissue imaging of functional events and pathologies that Magnetic Insight claims could be valuable for life science research and eventually for clinical applications.
- Japanese researchers added evidence in support of CT lung cancer screening, reporting that CT screening reduced lung cancer mortality by 51% among low-risk and non-smokers, compared to X-ray screening. The study looked at a 1998–2006 screening program, finding that individuals who received CT scans (n=17,935) had 273 cases of lung cancer (1.5%) and 72 lung cancer deaths (0.4%), while people who received X-ray screening (n=15,548) had 164 cases of lung cancer (1.1%) and 80 lung cancer deaths (0.5%).
- SuperSonic Imagine landed €14 million ($15.8m) in financing to support the expansion of its new Aixplorer MACH 30 ultrasound in key strategic markets (China, United States and France). Although new funding will certainly help SuperSonic Imagine accelerate the Aixplorer MACH 30’s rollout, this does not represent a major shift in strategy for the company, which has (understandably) relied on financing to develop its platform and build its commercial operations.
- An opinion piece from a pair of UC Davis doctors argued that AI’s ability to automate tasks will allow physicians to refocus their time and attention on the doctor-patient relationship. The doctors specifically emphasized AI’s patient-centric benefits within breast imaging, as it can automate the specialty’s long list of tasks (processing, exam protocol, reporting, and even screening), and allow breast imaging clinicians to spend more time discussing patients’ situations and options.
- Low MRI scan costs (Rs 2,500 / $34) and high internal referral volumes have MRI patients at Mumbai’s Nair Hospital (1 MRI system) deciding whether to sit on a waitlist until mid-2020, take a referral to other hospitals (some with 3-7month waitlists), or pay Rs 8,000- Rs15,000 ($111 – $208) at one of Mumbai’s private imaging centers. 2018 brought more than a few stories on the need for more, lower-cost MRIs in India and this story certainly supports that argument.
- Materialise and Carestream are developing a zero-footprint orthopedic surgical planning solution viewable on a standard browser, using Materialise’s OrthoView software. The forthcoming solution’s zero-footprint/enterprise-wide structure marks a major change from previous versions, which required dedicated workstations, forcing surgeons to perform planning at fixed locations in a hospital.
- Ugandan mobile ultrasound startup, M-SCAN, won TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Africa competition, earning it the title of “Africa’s Favorite Startup,” a $25,000 prize, and an invitation to TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019. Judges highlighted the portable M-SCAN ultrasound’s potential to deliver affordable ultrasound care across Africa as well as its focus on battling birth mortality as key contributors to the company’s winning bid.
- Monitor Daily published a profile on GE Healthcare and TIAA’s new leasing partnership, which started as a deal to help GE unload some of GE Capital’s assets ($1.5B in this case), but evolved to include a five-year vendor financing agreement that will allow TIAA to serve GE Healthcare’s US customers through a co-branded approach. The deal will allow GE Healthcare Equipment Finance (HEF) to continue to fund GE Healthcare’s deals after the spinoff from GE Corp. (and GE Capital), while allowing TIAA to expand its relationship with the many public hospitals and academic institutions that it has historically worked with from a retirement perspective.
- RadNet and MemorialCare expanded their joint venture imaging center network, acquiring Orange County Diagnostic Imaging Centers’ four locations (Laguna Woods, Santa Ana, Irvine and Mission Viejo, CA). Already the largest medical imaging center network in Southern California, the acquisition expands the year-old RadNet/MemorialCare joint venture to include 30 LA and Orange county locations.
The Resource Wire
– This is sponsored content.
- The 6th Annual Focused Ultrasound Foundation Symposium included over 250 presentations on the evolution and application of focused ultrasound, including dozens that are now available on the Foundation’s Youtube page.
- POCUS Systems is 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.
- Orthopedic Center of Palm Beach County became the latest to install Carestream’s OnSight 3D Extremity System, highlighting the cone beam CT’s image quality and performance as well as its ability to improve patients costs and convenience by performing exams and diagnosis in a single visit.
- This Medmo video details how its healthcare marketplace platform and network of participating radiologists help underinsured patients pay as little as possible for their imaging procedures.
- In this OpenMarkets video, healthcare providers discuss their experience using the OpenMarkets Exchange.