Portable MRI | ACA Tax Hurts | Zebra Funded

It turns out our brains work in a similar way to GPUs, which is perhaps why GPU chips are so effective as tools for machine learning.

Dr. Mark Michalski, executive director of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Clinical Data Science, explaining the technology behind AI/ML (for readers who are into that kind of stuff). Interestingly, tech and investment wiz, Steve Jurvetson, explained the role of GPUs in AI the same way several weeks ago on the Tim Ferriss Podcast.


The Imaging Wire

The First Portable MRI
As always, necessity is the mother of invention. India’s Tata Trust announced the world’s first portable MRI scanner, small enough to be mounted on a truck, and created to deliver imaging services to the country’s rural areas. Engineers at Voxelgrids (incubated by Tata Trust) developed the 1.5T whole body MRI over two years, and claim that the system is lighter, smaller, lower-cost, 3-4x faster, and more-power efficient than current systems in the country. That’s quite a lot of advantages. There is no news of this new portable MRI expanding beyond India, but the above value proposition should resonate across the globe.


ACA Medical Device Tax Takes Heavy Toll
Iowa State University research found that the Affordable Care Act’s 2.3% medical device tax directly led to major industry R&D funding cuts (-$34M), while also dragging down revenue (-$188M), gross margins (-$375M), and earnings ($68M), and reportedly leading to 29,000 industry job losses. The tax ran from 2013 to 2015, before congress placed a 2-year moratorium on it that was recently extended through 2020. There are some strong opinions on this tax within the medical industry, and there will certainly be plenty of influencing taking place during the next two years, with some suggesting to spread it wider across the supply chain, particularly by taxing health insurers.


Zebra Medical Gets Well Funded
Zebra Medical Vision closed a hefty $30 million Series C financing round led by led by aMoon Ventures and an A-list group of investors (Nvidia, Salesforce’s Benioff and Socher, Google Cloud’s Fei Fei Lee, Johnson & Johnson, among others). That’s a lot of $1 scans! The Israeli medical imaging machine-learning firm previously raised $20 million in funding and will use its additional cash to grow its workforce with the goals of expanding its analytics to new parts of the body and driving its go-to-market strategy.


RP Marches On
Mega practice, Radiology Partners, announced the addition of 30 new client sites across Kentucky, Texas and Ohio and new practice partnerships in Arizona, Illinois, and Texas. The new partnerships include Sun City Imaging in Arizona, the 30-radiologist Medical Imaging Professionals practice in Chicago, and Brazosport Radiology in Texas. The additions continue RP’s ongoing growth since taking a $234m capital investment in March, with presence-expanding partnerships in Louisiana, California, Arizona, and Florida in recent months (partnering with the largest practices in each state), giving RP a total presence at over 600 sites in 16 states. The latest moves also appear to reveal a hub and spoke strategy, where RP enters a new state by acquiring a large new partner, followed by smaller add-ons in adjacent areas.


CMS Rejects NaF PET Imaging Reimbursements
The Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) decided to not cover reimbursements for 18F-sodium fluoride positron emission tomography (NaF PET) imaging, prompting a strong response from imaging industry groups. Citing the impact on Medicare patients with metastatic cancers, a range of industry groups (WMIS, SNMMI, NORP) urged CMS to reconsider, emphasizing that NaF PET examinations lead to more appropriate treatment plans for many cancer patients. Given that the CMS based its decision on the existing national coverage determination (NCD), the groups do not expect CMS to reconsider (again), with some suggesting that it will be more effective to change the NCD for PET imaging.


The Wire

  • Sectra won a 5-year contract with large North/South Dakota hospital system (44 hospitals), Sanford Health, in a deal that is highlighted by Sectra’s enterprise imaging PACS, but also includes its breast imaging, orthopaedics, 3D vessel analysis/lesion tracking, teaching file software, and business analytics package.
  • A JACR report found that large radiology practices and subspecialties earn higher scores (and therefore higher payments) from Medicare’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) compared to general radiologists, suggesting that these large practices and specialists benefit from the MIPS scoring method… or are just better at gaming MIPS scoring the system.
  • Samsung’s NeuroLogica subsidiary made a rare announcement, revealing that Florida Hospital in Orlando installed the company’s recently-upgraded BodyTom Elite portable 32-slice CT scanner to their brachytherapy suite.
  • Sonavex announced the FDA 510(k) clearance of its EchoMark and EchoMark LP (low profile) soft tissue markers, new ultrasound-reflective implants that can be used to mark soft tissue sites in surgical patients, representing the company’s first FDA clearance.
  • Zebra Medical Vision’s $30M financing round got most of the company’s press last week, but Zebra also announced the results of research on its forthcoming Textray chest X-ray AI automation solution, which leveraged 1.7 million images to identify 40 clinical findings.
  • The FDA issued a draft guidance for medical device submissions during the pre-submission phase of the agency’s Q-submission program. Based on the draft, the FDA will communicate acceptance of pre-submissions within 15 calendar days, provide the time and location of meetings in the same notification, and commit to give feedback on a minimum number of pre-submissions each year.
  • The UK government continues to roll-out new ways to drive AI adoption in medical imaging. Several weeks after announcing a UK NIH initiative, The UK Research and Innovation department announced plans to invest £50 million ($67M) to establish a network of 5 or 6 centers of excellence for digital pathology and/or medical imaging that leverage digital systems and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve diagnosis and deliver precision treatments.
  • Purdue researchers developed an analytical imaging technology based on functional MRI (fMRI) that can detect cerebral vascular disorders and injuries without a contrast agent by tracking an intrinsic blood-related MRI signal.
  • The European Parliament issued new draft legislation calling for joint assessments of new health technologies (including medical devices) rather than the current system where EU member states perform individual assessments.

The Resource Wire

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