“These physician-staffing companies are benefiting tremendously from the ability to bill out-of-network.”
Yale professor, Zack Cooper, on the key role that balance billing serves in some physician-staffing firms’ business models.
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
- Nuance – AI and cloud-powered technology solutions to help radiologists stay focused, move quickly, and work smarter
- Pocus Systems – A new Point of Care Ultrasound startup, combining a team of POCUS veterans with next-generation genuine AI technology to disrupt the industry
- Qure.ai – Making healthcare more accessible by applying deep learning to radiology imaging
The Imaging Wire
Mayo and Google Transform Healthcare
Mayo Clinic and Google just signed a 10-year partnership that will combine Google’s cloud and AI capabilities with Mayo’s clinical expertise to improve healthcare “through the transformative impact of understanding insights at scale.”
- The Deal – Mayo and Google’s partnership will still be based around cloud storage. However, they will also collaborate on new healthcare products leveraging AI/ML, cloud computing, and data analytics that will become the core of Mayo’s “bold, new digital strategy.” To support this transformation, Google will open an engineering office near Mayo’s Rochester, Minnesota headquarters to team-up with Mayo clinicians.
- Mayo’s Ambitions – With a million patients a year and a long history of innovation, any breakthroughs that come from this alliance would make a big impact even if they stayed within Mayo’s walls. However, Mayo Clinic plans to extend these AI models and other solutions to healthcare providers across the world.
Lung Cancer Screening’s Blood Test Step
The Early Detection of Cancer of the Lung Scotland (ECLS) trial revealed that a new blood test can help detect lung cancer earlier, allowing for earlier treatment and lower mortality rates.
- Study – The study looked at over 12k adults between 50 and 75 with a high risk of developing lung cancer within 24 months. The participants were screened with the EarlyCDT-Lung blood test and people who tested positive received low-dose CT scans, which together identified 32% of all lung cancers that occurred with 90% specificity.
- Results – Two years after taking the blood test, the number of participants who had a late-stage lung cancer diagnosis was reduced by more than a third compared to people who received normal care. The blood test may also reduce unnecessary imaging by two thirds.
- Significance – The study is a step towards achieving earlier lung cancer diagnosis, understanding that the disease is difficult to spot early and scanning alone results is a high level of false positives.
KHN and Surprise Billing’s Bad Guys
Kaiser Health News shared a new perspective on the public campaigns to stop surprise billing legislation (or at least stop median benchmark rate settlements) that dominated political advertising throughout the summer, suggesting that the PE and VC-funded campaigns were not as pro-patient and pro-physician as they claimed.
KHN didn’t paint a benevolent picture of the pro-physician side of the surprise billing argument, depicting it as being run by “dark-money groups with innocuous names.” The motivations behind these lobbying efforts weren’t much better, as KHN quoted a surprise billing expert who explained that “private equity firms are buying up physician practices that allow them to bill out-of-network, cloaking themselves in the halo that physicians generally receive and then actively watering down any legislation that would both protect patients but affect their bottom line.”
There are two sides to this debate, but folks who read this article may be more likely to favor the insurer-backed side.
- A team of USC radiologists proposed the adoption of a Reason for exam Imaging Reporting and Data System (RI-RADS) that would evaluate details in imaging orders (impression, clinical findings, and the diagnostic question) and grade referring physicians on completeness (A = adequate, B = barely adequate, C = considerably limited, D = deficient). Noting the role of complete orders in radiology diagnosis, the goal of this system would be to create order information standards and ensure that radiologists are able to easily understand the reason for each study.
- Signify Research reports that after a strong 2018, the global ultrasound market slowed through the first half of 2019 and is expected to maintain that trend through the end of the year. The ultrasound slowdown is mainly driven by challenges in N. America (low single digit growth, strongest in premium and handheld), W. Europe (returns to its historical average of 2% growth), China (first time below 10% growth due to economic uncertainty), and Japan (potential for double digit decline due to consumption tax). The declines in these major economies will outweigh solid years in L. America (mid-single digit growth, driven by Mexico), Africa (double-digit growth), and Russia (double-digit growth).
- South Korean researchers confirmed that using virtual reality to educate pediatric patients before imaging procedures improved patient experiences and satisfaction. The study used results from 99 children between 4 and 8 years (50 control, 49 VR group), finding that the VR group had less anxiety/distress (2 vs. 5 scores out of 30), less need for parental presence (8 vs. 18 cases), shorter mean procedure times (55.1 vs. 75 seconds), and greater parental satisfaction levels (9.4 vs. 8.6 scores) when they received chest X-rays.
- Here’s one scam that’s less common since DR came on the scene. A former GM of a central New York imaging center was sentenced to four months of weekends in jail and five years of probation for stealing more than $50,000 worth of X-ray film and selling it to recyclers who harvested it for scrap silver.
- Life Image launched a new enhancement and validation service that improves the Google Cloud Healthcare API’s de-identification functionality. The new Life Imaging service uses a combination of machine learning and human validators to help Google Cloud Healthcare API clients satisfy personal healthcare information (PHI) compliance standards and streamline the de-identification process.
- A Duke study found that race and gender continue to influence the language used in residency recommendation letters. A review of 2,624 diagnostic radiology residency recommendation letters for 736 applicants found that letters for female, white, and Asian applicants were more likely to include agentic language (e.g. “ambitious,” “direct,” “influential,”) compared to letters for male, black, and Latino applicants. The study also found that letters were more likely to describe applicants with both agentic and communal language (e.g. “team-player,” “friendly,” “collaborative,”) if they are written by women (vs. men) or written by senior ranking faculty (vs. junior faculty).
- Digirad diversified well beyond medical imaging this week with its acquisition of housing materials company ATRM Holdings for $3 million. Digirad is best known for its solid-state gamma nuclear imaging cameras and provides diagnostic services (imaging systems/staff/services to healthcare clinics) and mobile imaging services, but will soon be part of a holding company that also makes wall panels and wood foundations for commercial and residential construction.
- Australian researchers took a step towards alleviating MRI-related stress and reducing the relatively high costs of single-use MRI markers (usually $6-$10 each, multiple markers used per scan), finding in a new study that everyday items like jelly candies, fish-shaped sauce containers, and fish oil capsules are viable alternatives for some MRI sequences. The group tested 17 different items (others included coffee beans, paintball pellets, play doh, actual commercial pellets), finding that these items performed well in five of the most common MRI sequences and theorizing that familiar objects would make the MRI process less frightening for children.
- Novarad landed an OpenSight AR System deal with George Washington University Hospital, making the D.C. area the hospital the first in the U.S. to use AR technology to assist a surgical operation. The OpenSight Augmented Reality System combines a Microsoft HoloLens rig with Novarad’s image processing tech to render 2D, 3D and 4D patient images and overlay them directly onto a patient’s body for pre-operative planning. This is a big deal for Novarad and pre-surgical AR and is worth keeping an eye on.
- A survey from IMV Medical Information Division published on AuntMinnie.com (n= 190 radiology, cardiology, and surgery/hybrid OR leaders) found that fixed C-arm use is increasing and diversifying. A notable 75% of respondents plan to increase their fixed C-arm volume, aligning with a trend towards more fixed C-arm use in minimally invasive procedures and less use in open surgery procedures over the next 2-3 years (41% agreement rate). IMV sees strong demand for new fixed C-arm systems, as 58% of respondents revealed that they will be or might be acquiring new systems by 2022, with surgery departments driving 27% of this demand (mainly first-time placements) and the rest of the volume coming from radiology or cardiology-related departments (mainly replacements).
- Philips and B. Braun Melsungen launched their Onvision ultrasound guidance solutions for needle tip tracking, combining the Xperius POCUS system (available from both Philips and B.Braun) with Philips’ Onvision needle tip tracking technology and B. Braun’s Stimuplex Onvision needles. The integrated solution (available in the EU and Peru) is intended to help anesthesiologists accurately position the needle tip for regional anesthesia procedures (e.g. nerve blocks), improving efficiency and safety. IHS Markit recently forecast that shipments for anesthesia needle guidance POCUS systems grew by an impressive 15% last year and are expected to grow through 2023, making this a well-timed launch.
- CurveBeam’s LineUp weight bearing CT system is now compatible with Wright Medical’s PROPHECY preoperative navigation system and portfolio of total ankle replacement implants. With the new compatibility, hospitals and orthopedic practices (initially select practices) will be able to submit LineUP scans for use in PROPHECY’s virtual preoperative alignment process to create patient-specific surgical guides.
The Resource Wire
- Nuance’s Karen Holzberger and a team of AI and clinical leaders will take the C-MIMI 2019 stage on September 22 to discuss Driving AI Adoption in Clinical Practice.
- Did you know that imaging patients are most likely to no-show for their procedures on Mondays and Saturdays? By partnering with Medmo, imaging centers can keep their schedules full, despite the inevitable Monday no-shows.
- This Carestream case study compares images of foot trauma captured using the OnSight 3D Extremity System to images captured on 2D X-rays.
- Qure.ai got solution-oriented in its latest blog, analyzing how acquisition artifacts are responsible for AI performance degradation, and introducing two methods to solve this problem.
- Profound Medical announced yet another Focused Ultrasound Foundation-related advancement with the FDA clearance of its TULSA-PRO transurethral ultrasound device for the MRI-guided ablation of prostate tissues.
- POCUS Systems’ forthcoming ultrasounds will combine ease of use, durability, and reliability, allowing clinicians to focus on their patients.