Congrats on wrapping up a truly wild year for radiology and medical imaging, everyone. Here are some of the top storylines from the last 12 months that might explain why it felt more like 18 months.
Mid-COVID – This time last year radiology teams and vendors were preparing for a post-COVID future, but that obviously wasn’t what happened in 2021. Instead, they battled their way through a second pandemic year and accelerated some major imaging-related trends that might extend well into the future (cloud IT, portable imaging, remote reading, backlogs, burnout, tele/home care, and more).
Big Acquisitions – It might not seem like it, but 2021 included an unusually high number of industry-changing acquisitions. These acquisitions turned two imaging leaders into parts of much bigger non-imaging companies (Nuance & Microsoft; Change & UnitedHealthcare), transformed Intelerad into a top-tier PACS player (Ambra, Insignia, HeartIT, LUMEDX), created a pair of new public companies through SPAC mergers (Butterfly & Hyperfine), brought the first big AI acquisition (Zebra-Med & Nanox), gave Canon its own photon-counting detectors (Redlen), and added surgical ultrasound to GE’s portfolio (BK Medical). Of course, there were plenty of practice and imaging center acquisitions too.
AI Maturation – AI is still super young, but there were plenty of signs that it’s growing up fast. 2021 saw imaging AI make its way into far more clinical workflows and curriculums, created a wider divide between the AI leaders and the 2nd/3rd-tier players, and drove a lot more AI vendor consolidation than it might appear.
Burnout – Burnout remained a dominant theme again this year, making workflow efficiency the top focus area for most radiology team leaders, product developers, and marketers.
Developing World Imaging – The developing world’s lack of medical imaging is definitely not new, but it seems like imaging players started paying more attention to the half of the world that still doesn’t have enough imaging access. We saw a sustained focus on low/middle income countries from Hyperfine/Butterfly/Nanox/Qure.ai, new developing world strategies from Siemens and Fujifilm, and a major tuberculosis CXR AI endorsement from the World Health Organization.
Population Health Pivot – 2021 also brought a major increase in population health AI activity, including commercial launches from Nanox AI and Cleerly, an increased research focus from academia, and UCSF deploying an automated CAC scoring system for all chest CTs.