“Somehow, buying essential medical equipment has grown into its own industry.”
Hyperfine’s Chris Ward on why the portable MRI startup decided to simplify the MRI buying process.
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The Imaging Wire
RP’s Big Week
Radiology Partners advanced its national expansion and AI leadership strategies this week, revealing more acquisitions and an interesting new partnership with Aidoc. These didn’t get a lot of attention from the imaging industry press, but they are definitely worth the industry’s attention.
- RP Still Growing – Radiology Partners let everyone know that it hasn’t slowed its acquisition strategy since taking over Mednax last September, revealing that it completed six new practice partnerships since Q4 2020 including the US’ largest women’s imaging practice. With these acquisitions and its own organic growth, RP now serves more than 3,400 hospitals in 33 states, giving it a rare level of scale and influence.
- RP & Aidoc’s Big AI Alliance – Radiology Partners also announced a strategic alliance with Aidoc that will integrate Aidoc’s AI tools into RP’s diagnostic workflows and allow Aidoc to “develop and continually refine” its AI tools across RP’s massive network. This is perhaps RP’s biggest AI announcement ever and it’s also a big deal for Aidoc, which lists a number of major U.S. clients but none with RP’s scale or AI aspirations.
- Rad Concerns – This was quite the one-two punch for the folks concerned that RP will use its growing presence and emerging AI leadership to give it even more leverage over its radiologists, partner hospitals, and competitor practices. Maybe they’re paranoid, but national expansion and AI leadership are two of RP’s strategic pillars for a reason.
Hyperfine Totally Rethinks MRI Buying
Hyperfine Research’s strategy to democratize MR imaging took an interesting turn with the launch of its Total Rethink Buying Process. Based on the theory that “simplification yields democratization” (and perhaps with some inspiration from its cousins at Butterfly Network), Hyperfine’s “totally rethought” Swoop MRI sales process combines:
- A hospital demo tour (not totally unusual)
- Same day clinical demos during tour stops (definitely new for MRI)
- An online storefront (very new for any advanced modality)
- Subscription-based pricing covering everything from hardware/software/cloud to integration/service (another first for advanced modalities)
- A consumer-style 90-day return policy
Hyperfine is certainly in a better position to do this than the traditional full-sized MRI OEMs, but it takes some chutzpah to combine a brand-new product category with a brand-new acquisition model, and it definitely shows how committed they are to challenging the status quo.
- A Major Mobile TB Partnership: This week brought some big names and big innovations into the tuberculosis fight, with the launch of the “Driving to Find the Missing Millions” partnership from Fujifilm (Xair PoC X-ray), Qure.ai (qXR TB AI tool), Toyota (refrigerated Land Cruisers), and Molbio (portable TB testing). The partners will provide customized TB screening mobiles to help public health groups reach remote areas (where TB is often underdiagnosed), while reducing the time (from multiple days to <1hr) and costs typically required for end-to-end TB diagnosis.
- DBT’s Interval Evidence: A new Radiology Journal study found that women screen with DBT had lower interval cancer rates (cancers detected in-between screenings) compared to women only screened with digital mammography (DM), suggesting that DBT screening catches more cancers that would have been diagnosed at later stages. In the prospective population-based trial (n = 14,848 w/ DBT, 26,738 w/ DM, 5yrs), women screened with DBT had far lower interval cancer rates than women only screened with DM (1.6 per 1k vs. 2.8 per 1k), while DBT and DM screenings detected tumors with similar characteristics.
- Allm’s $51m: Japanese mobile medical communications company, Allm Inc., completed a 5.6b Yen ($51m) Series A round that it will use to fund its global expansion and support ongoing R&D. AIIm’s “Join” platform supports mobile medical information sharing across healthcare journeys (emergency, triage, diagnosis, in-hospital, post-hospital), with image sharing/viewing playing a key role (ambulance & in-hospital imaging, AI & PACS integration). It’s also worth noting that Philips is one of AIIm’s Series A investors.
- A Nano Agent Breakthrough: Yale scientists developed a CT contrast agent technique that could significantly improve image quality, while reducing both radiation and agent dosage. The now-patented “nanoconfinement” technique packs iodine contrast into tiny polymer nanoparticles (<200nm), which are able to absorb far more X-rays and produce “orders of magnitude” higher contrast enhancement than current CT agents. Because iodine-based contrast agents are already widely used and because there are already FDA-approved polymers, this technique might even have a high decent chance to make it to commercial use.
- Chest CT for COPD Mortality: Performing routine chest CT body composition assessments could help assess COPD patients’ mortality risks. That’s from a new Radiology Journal study (n = 2,994 patients, 265 w/ COPD) that found COPD patients with higher subcutaneous adipose tissue had lower all-cause mortality risks (hazard ratio: 0.2), while COPD patients with higher intermuscular adipose tissue had higher risk of all-cause mortality (hazard ratio: 1.4).
- Ambra’s Image-Based Referrals: Ambra Health and Eceptionist are now supporting Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center’s image-enabled second opinion referrals service. Baylor’s International Services Department developed the solution by adding Ambra’s imaging viewing and sharing capabilities to the department’s existing Eceptionist-based international patient referral management solution (eliminating their use of CDs).
- Breast Ultrasound CNNs Test Well: A large multicenter study out of China showed how deep learning ultrasound models could be valuable for detecting and characterizing breast cancer. The researchers used 15,648 ultrasound images to train and test three different breast cancer detection and classification CNNs (1. 2D ultrasound; 2. 2D US + color flow Doppler; 3. 2D US + color flow Doppler + pulsed wave Doppler), finding that the ultrasound + color flow Doppler CNN performed slightly better than the other two (all around 88% accuracy). However, that CNN significantly outperformed 37 sonographers in a separate 50-exam set, classifying tumors with 89.2% accuracy (vs. 30%) in just two seconds per image (vs. 314 seconds).
- Insightec Adds Another $136M: Insightec disclosed a $136m round led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), increasing the MR-guided focused ultrasound company’s fundraising total to a whopping $633m. Insightec seems to have the commercial momentum to justify its latest round, after gaining regulatory approval in China and Brazil in February (it’s already approved U.S., Europe, Japan, Korea, and Russia) and launching an MRI integration partnership with Philips in December.
- The Five-Minute Knee MRI: New research published in Radiology Journal revealed that combining simultaneous multislice and parallel imaging (typically performed independently) could allow 5-minute knee MRI scans that are comparable to 10-minute MRIs using parallel imaging acceleration. The study performed the 5 and 10-minute protocols on 252 adults with knee pain (104 w/ 1.5T, 148 w/ 3T) revealing “good” and “very good” agreement rates with 1.5T and 3T systems (κ >0.71 & κ >0.85) and similar diagnostic performance with 1.5T and 3T systems (>0.78 & >0.83 AMCs).
- SmartAlpha’s Ultrasound AI: Turkish ultrasound AI startup SmartAlpha just scored $4.7m in funding to further develop its AI-aided ultrasound diagnosis software and its eventual global expansion. SmartAlpha’s initial solution is intended to help anesthesiologists perform ultrasound guided peripheral nerve blocks, although they plan to offer solutions across a range of ultrasound use cases.
- Big U.S. Cancer Rate Changes: A new JAMA study forecast that cancer incidence in the U.S. will increase by 12% through 2040 to 1.9 million people and deaths will fall by 27% to 410k, while certain cancers’ prevalence and mortality rates shift dramatically. The more notable imaging-related shifts include breast cancer (incidence +34%, mortality -25%), lung cancer (incidence -3%, mortality -51%), and prostate cancer (incidence -62%, mortality -10%).
The Resource Wire
– This is sponsored content.
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- If you missed United Imaging a couple of months ago at RSNA, you missed their well-attended virtual presentation, Beyond the Status Quo. In part one of that video, they cover their product launches. (Look for part two in the next Imaging Wire.)
- See what physician leaders at Oxford, Intermountain Health, and University of Virginia had to say about bringing Zebra Medical into their radiology workflows.
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- This Bayer case study details how radiation benchmarking programs can help push CT dose exposure reduction initiatives from achieving compliance to driving quality.
- Learn how Grandview Medical Center improved turnaround times, report quality, and radiology workflows since implementing Nuance PowerScribe One.
- Learn how Hitachi Healthcare’s Sonticus system alerts physicians when critical findings thresholds are exceeded, helping them address urgent issues and avoid diagnostic errors.
- This study shows how Arterys’ Lung AI significantly improves screening and incidental nodules detection rates.
- Check out how Novarad’s enterprise imaging patient storyboard view gives specialists more and better information from across a hospital system to better care for their patients.
- This AI economics overview from Healthcare Administrative Partners details the various AI payment scenarios and ways that AI can contribute to radiology practices until reimbursements become more of a reality.
- GE Healthcare just launched the 2021 X-Ray Technologist Awards recognizing technologists who went above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. If any of your colleagues stepped-up in the areas of Patient Experience, Clinical Excellence, and Workflow Improvement last year, nominate them today.