“If this country needs more gun control and climate change activists, medical schools are not the right place to produce them.”
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
A Japanese research team developed a microwave-based mammography screening technique that is reportedly less painful, safer, more accurate, and better with smaller tumors than current X-ray or ultrasound-based technology. That’s a pretty big claim and here’s the background.
- Microwave Mammography – The Kobe University-developed technique uses an antenna to beam microwaves over the surface of the breast, producing “highly accurate” 3D images of breast tumors. The new technique reportedly fared well versus X-ray mammography and breast ultrasound scans in a 300-person study. However, because microwave can’t pass through muscle, the new tech may not be applicable to other cancers.
- Next Steps – The team is planning clinical tests next year and may commercialize the new technology in Japan as early as fall 2021, after receiving the country’s “fast track” designation. The announcement didn’t mention plans to expand to the rest of the world, although if this new microwave-based mammography approach truly achieves the above advantages, global expansion seems inevitable.
DBT’s Costly Benefits
New research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute confirmed that DBT screening reduces false-positive exams and has similar or slightly greater health benefits compared to DM. However, its benefits don’t justify its higher costs. At least not at current reimbursement rates.
- Study – The researchers used three CISNET breast cancer models to simulate DBT and DM screening on U.S. women aged ≥40 years, starting in 2011 and continuing until each reached 80 years old.
- Results – The study found that DBT reduced false-positive exams by between 24% and 28%, slightly reduced breast cancer deaths (between 0 and 0.21 per 1k women), and slightly improved quality-adjusted life-years (QALY, between 1.97 and 3.27 per 1k women) compared to DM. However, DBT’s incremental cost-effectiveness ratio range ($195,026 to $270,135 per QALY) positions it well above healthcare’s standard $50k-$150k QALY threshold, suggesting that DBT would only make financial sense at lower reimbursement rates or if only used with specific groups of women.
Sticking to Medicine
Former UPenn Perelman School of Medicine associate dean, Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, took to WSJ’s opinion page to criticize medical schools’ increased focus on social justice topics “that relate to health care only tangentially.” Goldfarb warned that this “politicized medical education should worry all Americans” as more curricula is focused on progressive causes (e.g. climate change, social inequities, gun violence) at the expense of actual medical training.
Backlash against Goldfarb’s editorial came fast and fierce enough for Perelman to publicly clarify that they’re still “woke” enough to realize that the most serious social issues often have medical consequences. Meanwhile, others pointed out that medical science education and social determinants education isn’t an either-or scenario.
No matter where you stand on this issue (emphasizing medical education seems pretty reasonable), most would agree that mixing medicine and politics is tricky these days.
- ProPublica made the fact that millions of people’s medical images are publicly available on the internet a lot more public this week. ProPublica identified 187 Internet-accessible servers holding medical images of over 5 million Americans and 16 million people worldwide that “are so insecure that anyone with a web browser or a few lines of computer code can view.”
- Siemens Healthineers announced the FDA clearance of its Artis icono angiography systems, expanding and diversifying the company’s interventional portfolio with the “Artis icono” biplane system (for neuroradiology and abdominal procedures) and “ARTIS icono floor” single-plane floor-mounted system (for vascular, interventional cardiology, surgical, and oncology procedures). Siemens highlighted the ARTIS icono platform’s OPTIQ image chain image processing technology (increases image quality, allows lower dosage) and the models’ improved Case Flows support (creates personalized workflows).
- The U.S. federal government’s $973.5 million commitment to fund nondefense AI research in 2020 was greeted with a mixed response from the country’s AI tech leaders (mainly Intel and NVIDIA) who called for more money and expanded data protection/privacy rules in order for the U.S. to stay ahead of foreign rivals.
- Zebra Medical Vision announced a partnership with Indian radiology IT firm, Medsynaptic, who helped integrate Zebra’s “All in one” (AI1) radiology workflow solution across India’s massive Apollo Hospital network (40 million annual patients). Zebra Medical Vision relied on Medsynaptic for cloud integration and leveraged Medsynaptic’s core technologies (PACS, RIS, smart worklist) to create Apollo’s solution.
- North Carolina State University scientists identified a new ultrasound technique that might be able to help clinicians differentiate between healthy bone and osteoporosis. The technique turns one of ultrasound’s shortcomings (US usually struggles with complex media like bone) into an advantage by measuring the rate that ultrasound waves diffused from a bone site to assess the number, size, and density of bone pores. The technique is “at least years from clinical applications,” but could serve as a common way to monitor bone health without radiation. Although the bone health application got most of the attention, a variation of the same technique could also be used to spot tumors.
- Canon Medical announced a range of tools and options intended to help its customers create lung cancer screening programs based around its CT systems (most are approved for low-dose LCS). Canon’s LCS portfolio includes its Vitality XT protocol management solution (manages CT dose, protocols, and equipment), Image Maker marketing platform (gives access to co-branded LCS marketing materials), Visia CT Lung CAD Vitrea CT CT Lung Analysis tools (automatic nodule tracking using advanced visualization), Aquilion family CTs, and Celestion PET/CT system. Nearly all of these products/solutions were already available (maybe all were), making this more of a marketing effort than an actual product launch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
- Fujifilm SonoSite partnered with the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence (AI2) Incubator to co-develop deep learning-based ultrasound image interpretation solutions. The solutions would be deployed on SonoSite’s portable ultrasound systems and target a wide range of ultrasound interpretation scenarios. Fujifilm SonoSite appears to be leaning-in on an AI-enhanced ultrasound strategy, as the AI2 collaboration comes just a few months after a similar POCUS AI alliance with Partners Healthcare.
- Australian drug discovery and development company AdAlta announced a licensing deal with GE Healthcare that will allow GE to use AdAlta’s i-body platform to develop a portfolio of PET imaging agents. AdAlta will identify i-bodies (a new class of therapeutic protein) that GE can use as PET imaging agents for the selection and monitoring of patients receiving immunotherapy.
- Leaders of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee launched an investigation into private equity firms’ role in the country’s surprise billing problem, submitting questions to three major firms intended to quantify the role of surprise billing in their healthcare business models. The investigation comes as a result of ongoing surprise billing legislation, which experienced fierce PE-funded opposition and brought a greater spotlight on private equity’s role in healthcare.
- Riverain Technologies landed $15 million in funding that it will use to expand its product development (including a possible expansion beyond lung disease detection) and scale up its global commercialization efforts. Riverain’s ClearRead tools help clinicians detect cancer and other cell anomalies in thoracic CT and X-ray images and are in use at an impressive list of providers (Duke, Mayo, U of Chicago, U of Michigan, the VA).
- US Radiology took a big step in its nationwide expansion efforts, partnering with American Health Imaging (Atlanta-based, 31 imaging centers across GA, AL, FL, and TX). US Radiology was created in early 2018 through the merger of Charlotte Radiology and private equity firm WCAS with the goal of building “the premier physician-owned radiology partnership in the country.” This funding and goal led to 425% growth in the last year (now 2k team members, 12 states), including its previous acquisitions of Touchstone Medical Imaging (1k employees, 60 imaging centers, 7 states) and teleradiology firm Diversified Radiology (60 radiologists).
- Philips Healthcare Informatics landed a PACS contract with the U.S. Defense Department that could last 10 years (5yr base, 5yr option) and reach up to $400 million. The contract will cover Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and federal civilian agencies in California “and other areas located within and outside the continental U.S.,” with an initial completion date of September 2024.
The Resource Wire
- 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.
- This Carestream case study compares images of foot trauma captured using the OnSight 3D Extremity System to images captured on 2D X-rays.
- 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.
- Catch the Qure.ai team at this week’s AIMed Europe event in London where they’re part of the ‘Advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) & Imaging in Radiology’ workshop.
- 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.
- Focused Ultrasound for movement disorders is featured in the latest issue of “NeurologyLive,” including an interview with the Focus Ultrasound Foundation’s chief medical officer, Tim Meakem, MD, and coverage of the leading treatment techniques.