“. . . we’re essentially paying more and more for the same amount of health care,”
Niall Brennan, president and chief executive of HCCI, on America’s rising healthcare costs and declining usage.
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The Imaging Wire
Healthcare Spending Up, Usage Down
New research from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) reveals that annual healthcare spending among insured Americans increased by 4.2% to $5,641 in 2017, adding-on to a 4.9% increase in 2016. Although few would be surprised that healthcare costs are trending upwards, it is notable (and concerning) that these increases are due to rising prices and not the use of more services. In fact, overall healthcare service usage fell by 0.2% between 2013 and 2017, while spending on healthcare increased by 16.7% over the same period. Outpatient services experienced the greatest spending growth over the four-year period (+5.1% to 28% of all costs), with a big contribution from radiology which saw a 10% spending increase. This trend of rising costs and declining utilization has the attention of healthcare critics and makes you wonder if the industry’s pricing policies align with its patient-centric messaging.
Advancements in mammography screening and breast cancer treatment saved between 384,000 and 614,500 women’s lives in the US-alone since 1989, reducing the breast cancer mortality rate by between 45.3% and 58.3%. This is from research produced by a trio of radiologists and published in the journal Cancer, which studied breast cancer mortality and female population data of US women aged 40 to 84 years during the 30-year period. This is also a pretty amazing accomplishment and serves as a testament to the advancements in the fight against breast cancer during this time. However, the researchers warned that even though they expect breast cancer death rates to continue to fall, this trend is dependent on the public’s compliance with screening policies, noting that only half of all US women over-40 receive regular screenings.
New PET Technique Could Predict Breast Cancer Therapy
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that PET imaging with 18F-FFNP may allow clinicians to predict the effectiveness of breast cancer hormone therapy by measuring changes in progesterone receptor (PR) levels. The study treated T47D human breast cancer cells and mice with T47D tumor xenografts with estrogen to increase PR expression. They then imaged the cells/ mice with 18F-FFNP, revealing an increase in 18F-FFNP uptake for both the cells (after 48 hours) and the T47D tumor xenografts (after 48-72 hours). The researchers were optimistic about PET with 18F-FFNP, in a scientific way, suggesting that this approach could expand breast imaging applications and help clinicians make better-informed breast cancer therapy decisions.
Editor’s note: Monday’s issue included news that Agfa may be winding down its imaging hardware business. This was incorrect. Agfa transitioned its DR/hardware/film business from HealthCare into its industrial/corporate division last year, leaving Agfa HealthCare specifically focused on Health IT.
- Circle Cardiovascular Imaging expanded its CVI portfolio, acquiring cardiac imaging analysis AI/ML software developer, Corstem, and signing a distribution and joint development deal with Galgo Medical. Circle will integrate Corstem’s technologies into its cvi42 software, making it an automatic solution for fully-quantitative myocardial perfusion and exposing Corstem’s clinical AI solutions to Circle’s international markets. Circle and Galgo will jointly develop and commercialize Galgo’s ADAS 3D scanner solution, intended to expand the use of Cardiac MR to electrophysiology procedures, with Circle distributing the solution through its channels and customer base.
- Wisconsin-based mobile medical photo sharing company, ImageMoverMD, continued its fundraising efforts with a $4 million investment that the company will use to drive sales and expand the capabilities of its software. ImageMoverMD just raised $1.3 million in September and has raised at least $8.3 million since launching in 2013. Although not technically focused on “our” type of imaging, the growing role of photos in healthcare is undeniable, making ImageMoverMD a company to keep an eye on.
- A team of German and Swiss researchers found that volumetric multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT), a new hybrid imaging technique that combines functional and molecular contrast with real-time handheld imaging, can outperform ultrasound at imaging carotid arteries. The researchers specifically highlighted MSOT’s ability to identify the type of arterial plaque in patients, suggesting that it could prove to be a valuable way to diagnose and measure carotid artery disease.
- Spain’s competition commission began disciplinary action against Curium Pharma Spain and Advanced Accelerator Applications Ibérica for anticompetitive practices in the country’s PET radiopharmaceutical market. The commission claims that between 2014 and 2018 the companies manipulated distribution, fixed prices, and traded information, while in 2017 and 2018 Advanced Accelerator Applications Ibérica abused its position to keep new PET agent competitors out of the market.
- Frost & Sullivan forecast that the precision medical imaging market is set to grow from $120 million in 2017 to over $8 billion by 2027, driven by healthcare’s patient-centric shift and advances in precision-related technologies such as clinical decision support software, sensors, 3D printing, and precision analytics.
- The American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology (ACC) reiterated their support for CT coronary artery calcium (CAC) testing to measure heart disease risk, which was followed by an editorial from a Johns Hopkins team suggesting that CAC should be used as a risk and treatment decision aid, but not for screening. The team also called for CT CAC coverage with “reasonable” sub-$150 pricing.
- Radiology blockchain marketplace company, Medical Diagnostic Web (MDW), signed a partnership with full-service blockchain company, Bitfury, and AI and blockchain company, Longenesis, to create a platform for maintaining, sharing, and securing medical imaging and diagnostics data. The new platform will be built on Bitfury’s Exonum private blockchain framework, leveraging Longenesis’ technology to maintain privacy/compliance, and will be offered on MDW’s marketplace.
- Research informatics company, Flywheel, announced a partnership with Google Cloud to integrate Google’s Cloud Healthcare Application Programming Interface (API) with Flywheel’s medical imaging informatics platform. Flywheel will incorporate Google Cloud’s BigQuery (for analyzing medical imaging, biomarker, and tabular data) and Google’s Cloud AutoML Vision API (creates learning workflow for AI medical imaging models) to support imaging research centers and clinical researchers. This partnership follows Flywheel’s mid-2018 deal with Columbia University that used the Google Cloud Platform to create a cloud-based MRI research center.
- Angiography imaging tech company, CathWorks, completed a $30 million Series C financing round led by Deerfield Management that it will use to fund the launch of its recently-FDA-cleared CathWorks FFRAngio non-invasive fractional flow reserve system. The investment follows CathWorks’ $15.8 million Series B round in October 2017 that it used to fund FDA-related trials.
- Canon Medical Systems expanded its radiation therapy capabilities, making its radiation therapy package available with its Aquilion Prime SP and Aquilion Lightning 80 premium CT systems. The systems follow Canon’s Aquilion LB to offer the RT package, which includes an expanded field of view (LB = 85cm, Prime/Lightening = 70cm), a RT flat table top, respiratory gating, and LAP lasers.
- Hologic announced the launch of its new Unifi Analytics mammography business intelligence tool, which monitors healthcare facilities’ mammography devices for technology efficiency, technologist performance, standard compliance, and to predict tube failures.
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- A new Gallup poll revealed that 13.7% of American adults are uninsured, representing the highest rate since 2013 when it was 18% (before most of ACA went into effect). These are the exact patients who can be helped by the Medmo platform, which connects high-deductible or uninsured patients with radiology centers, ensuring the best value for patients and a profitable revenue stream for imaging centers.
- Carestream cleaned up in KLAS’ 2019 awards, earning Best in KLAS VNA/Image Archive, Best in KLAS PACS Middle East/Africa, and Category Leader in Universal Viewer for the second consecutive year.
- 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 system.
- Focused Ultrasound Foundation-funded researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine have begun a clinical trial investigating the use of focused ultrasound to control medication-refractory lobe focal onset epilepsy in adult patients.