AI Optimism | Pentagon POCUS | Midea Enters

“AI will become our foe unless the human touch to radiology is restored,”

Frank Lexa, MD, MBA and Saurabh Jha, MD, urging radiologists to “go beyond the pixel” in order to remain relevant in the AI era.

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The Imaging Wire

AI Optimism’s Two Sides

The AJR just published two contrasting editorials on how interpretive AI will affect future radiologists, respectively arguing that AI will either evolve radiologists’ role or slowly eliminate many of their jobs. Below are some details and here’s a good overview from AuntMinnie if you don’t have AJR access:

  • AI, The Radiologist’s Friend – The Boston-based duo on the “AI friend” side of this debate assured readers that AI will help solve many of radiology’s current challenges (burnout / bandwidth, prioritization, accuracy, regional scarcity), while giving radiologists more time to focus on high-value tasks (image-guided procedures, patient and physician consultations), and eventually leading to true precision medicine that both improves outcomes and lowers healthcare costs. To that end, the paper encouraged radiologists to increase their adoption and use of AI.
  • AI, The Radiologist’s Foe – The Pennsylvania-based tandem on the “AI foe” side, essentially argued that everything listed above could happen and AI would still reduce the radiologist workforce. They described an AI adoption path that starts off with radiologists appreciating AI’s efficiency and accuracy benefits, while automated AI tools increasingly take over a greater portion of their workload. This would eventually allow hospitals and practices to trim down their radiologist staff, while allowing nonradiologists (e.g. neurology groups) to handle more interpretations on their own. To that end, the paper encouraged radiologists to “go beyond the pixel” and focus on their patients, referring physicians, and other tasks that AI can’t handle.
  • The Takeaway – Time will tell which side proves correct, or whether they are both right. Until then, one thing both sides can agree on is that AI will have a massive impact on radiology.

The Wire

  • The Pentagon’s POCUS AI Push: With an eye on POCUS’ military medicine potential, the Pentagon is offering a $1m DARPA grant for the development of an ultrasound AI tool that would allow soldiers with limited medical training to perform POCUS exams on the battlefield. The Pentagon is specifically seeking an all-in-one AI tool that can be trained with limited data, supports four key battlefield exams (pneumothorax detection, measurement of optic nerve sheath diameter, nerve block guidance, endotracheal intubation verification), and could later add support for more exams.
  • Breast Cancer Now Most Common: A new WHO-connected study revealed that breast cancer has surpassed lung cancer as the most common type of cancer globally (11.7% vs. 11.4% of new annual cases), calling the shift “quite surprising” given that lung cancer has been the most common for the last 20 years (it’s still by far the deadliest). The study attributed the rise in breast cancer diagnosis to a greater prevalence of key risk factors (obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, later and fewer childbirths, and less breastfeeding).
  • Midea’s Imaging Entry: Major Chinese electronics manufacturer, Midea, is expanding into medical imaging after buying a 29% stake in Wandong Medical Technology. Wandong Medical maintains a relatively wide portfolio of imaging systems (X-ray, MRI, CT, components), while Midea has an even wider array of technology businesses and a larger presence in Western markets than some might think (if you’ve recently bought a Eureka vacuum, it’s from Midea).
  • Spectral CT Breast Agents: UMass Lowell researchers are developing new photon-counting spectral CT contrast agents intended to recognize and bind to breast cancer cells, allowing earlier and more precise diagnosis. One key to the new imaging approach is spectral CT’s ability to produce multicolor 3D X-ray images, which when combined with the new nanomaterial contrast agents, could help physicians better discriminate between healthy and cancerous breast tissues.
  • Riverain’s New CCO: Riverain Technologies welcomed Mark Koeniguer as its new chief commercial officer, giving Koeniguer responsibility for Riverain’s global commercial operations and strategy, including sales, marketing, and customer success. Koeniguer joins Riverain from Volpara Health, and he previously served commercial leadership roles at a number of medtech companies including GE Healthcare.
  • More ED Imaging Disparities: A new AJR study detailed significant advanced imaging utilization disparities in U.S. emergency departments. A review of 89k ED counters (Medicare-covered adults w/ CT or MRI scans), revealed that ED patients at rural and critical access hospitals were 6.9% and 18% less likely to undergo advance imaging than patients at urban hospitals, while Black patients were 31.6% less likely to receive advanced imaging than White patients. This comes just a few weeks after a pediatric emergency imaging study found similar disparities between Black, Hispanic, and White children.
  • Akumin Settles: Akumin (125 imaging centers, 7 states) agreed to a $750k federal healthcare fraud settlement after a whistleblower-prompted investigation revealed that Akumin billed Medicare for >1,500 procedures that were performed without proper physician supervision (potentially contrast administration, but unconfirmed). Akumin joins a growing list of imaging centers and radiology groups to settle federal whistleblower cases, following Advanced Imaging (contrast w/o physician supervision), Mori, Bean and Brooks (Telerad performed outside U.S.), and Omega Imaging (contrast w/o physician supervision) in the last six months. It’s also a good reminder to keep your employees happy if you might not be following the rules.
  • nano-MRI for Prostate Cancer Assessments: A new study out of the Netherlands found that nano-MRI could be a valuable complement to PSMA-PET/CT for assessing lymph node metastases (LNs) in prostate cancer patients. In the review of 45 prostate cancer patients who underwent both imaging procedures, nano-MRI identified more suspicious LNs (160 vs. 71) in more patients (33 vs. 25) than PSMA-PET/CT due in part to its advantage identifying smaller suspicious LNs (5.3mm vs. 6mm mean size). However, both nano-MRI and PSMA-PET/CT detected suspicious LNs that the other modality missed (108 vs. 19 unique LNs).
  • Philips’ ClarifEye: Philips launched its new ClarifEye Augmented Reality Surgical Navigation system, combining 3D cone-beam CT imaging and augmented reality navigation to guide spinal fusion procedures. ClarifEye integrates with Philips’ Azurion image-guided therapy platform, giving clinicians live intra-operative visual feedback to support spinal pedicle screw placement and reduce the need for post-operative CT scans.
  • COVID Vaccine’s False Positives: A Weill Cornell study gained mainstream attention after revealing that side effects from the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines could be confused as signs of breast cancer. The researchers found that COVID-19 vaccine recipients are more likely show unilateral axillary adenopathy in their mammography exams than other vaccinations (because they evoke a stronger immune response), encouraging radiologists to recommend follow-ups for these patients rather than immediately performing axillary lymph node biopsies.
  • An NIH Informatics Indictment: A former University of Florida professor and researcher is facing federal charges after failing to disclose potential business and international conflicts after he received a $1.75m NIH grant to develop a muscle imaging informatics tool. During his NIH-funded project, the defendant allegedly created a China-based business to profit from his research and concealed funding from the Chinese government.
  • Mindray’s Refurbishment Program: Mindray North America launched its new inReach Product Refurbishment Program, providing refurbished Mindray technology (patient monitors, anesthesia machines, and ultrasound systems) at lower costs.
  • ACA’s Cancer Detection Boost: A Health Affairs study revealed that 2012’s Affordable Care Act expansions drove notable cancer detection increases among older pre-Medicare 60-64yr-old individuals, while eliminating the 45% cancer detection rate increase that historically occurs when people reached Medicare eligibility age. As a result of the ACA-related earlier screening and detection, 68% of the cancers detected among pre-Medicare individuals were early-to-mid stage.
  • Moody’s Surprise Billing Impact: Moody’s surprised few people in healthcare, but maybe some of its investor clients, with a new report suggesting that the 2021 Surprise billing ban will hurt physician staffing companies’ cash flow. Although staffing firms that employ emergency physicians and anesthesiologists are most exposed, firms that provide radiology services were a distant third. Moody’s also suggested that larger/national healthcare staffing companies will be more protected due to their negotiation leverage and existing in-network relationships compared to smaller/regional practices.

The Resource Wire

– This is sponsored content.

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  • They say that in times of crisis, you get to know who your real friends and partners are. This Q&A session details how Healthcare Administrative Partners stepped up to guide their client Triad Radiology Associates through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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