CV19 POCUS Network | PE Surge | First Tau Agent

“widespread upheaval in the US health care may lead to a surge of purchases by PE firms of distressed hospitals and other health care firms.”

A new JACR opinion piece detailing how private equity made the U.S. healthcare system more vulnerable to COVID-19’s financial disruption and how the pandemic may lead to a new surge in PE-driven consolidation.

Imaging Wire Sponsors

  • Focused Ultrasound Foundation – Accelerating the development and adoption of focused ultrasound.
  • GE Healthcare – Providing point of care ultrasound systems, from pocket-sized to portable consoles, designed to support your clinical needs and grow along with your practice.
  • Healthcare Administrative Partners – Empowering radiology groups through expert revenue cycle management, clinical analytics, practice support, and specialized coding.
  • Hitachi Healthcare Americas – Delivering best in class medical imaging technologies and value-based reporting.
  • Nuance – AI and cloud-powered technology solutions to help radiologists stay focused, move quickly, and work smarter.
  • Riverain Technologies – Offering artificial intelligence tools dedicated to the early, efficient detection of lung disease.

The Imaging Wire

CV19 POCUS Network

University of British Columbia researchers are developing a handheld ultrasound network (hardware, image database, AI) intended to accelerate COVID-19 diagnosis across the province and “potentially beyond.”

  • The Network – UBC’s COVID-19 POCUS network will combine ultrasound systems from B.C.-based Clarius Mobile Health, UBC’s online lung ultrasound image library, and a UBC-developed AI diagnostic algorithm that could allow clinicians “to diagnose COVID-19 at the point of care—almost instantly.”
  • Instant Benefit – The UBC CV19 POCUS network’s main goal is to allow providers to detect COVID-19 lung changes earlier (including before test results arrive) and prioritize treatment for patients who are likely to deteriorate. The network-connected ultrasounds may also help support diagnostic accuracy (they’ve been found to be up to 33% more accurate than some lab tests) and allow physicians with less POCUS experience to diagnose CV19 pneumonia.
  • The Rollout – The network’s first 50 units will go to family doctors and acute care centers in rural B.C., followed by 30 units to Vancouver Coastal Health’ urban acute care sites.

Private Equity Surge

A new JACR opinion piece argued that private equity funding made the U.S. healthcare system more vulnerable to COVID-19’s financial disruption and warned that the pandemic may lead to a new surge in PE-driven consolidation and corporatization.

  • Pre-COVID Precedent – Healthcare consolidation and corporatization have been ramping up throughout the past decade, as private equity funding drove a wave of acquisitions.
  • PE’s COVID Exposure – As we all know, COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the U.S. healthcare finances (including radiology practices), as everything that could be delayed was delayed during the CV19 emergency. However, the paper suggests that the private equity model’s reliance on leveraged buyouts “amplified the risks” of the COVID-19 crisis and led to salary cuts, layoffs, and bankruptcies that healthy businesses could have avoided.
  • Post-COVID Surge – Despite how the CV19 emergency revealed the vulnerabilities of the PE model, the authors believe that the “widespread upheaval in the US health care may lead to a surge of purchases by PE firms of distressed hospitals and other health care firms.”

First Tau Agent

Lilly’s Tauvid (flortaucipir F18) PET radiopharmaceutical just became the first agent approved by the FDA to image tau pathology for Alzheimer’s disease assessments, joining a range of agents intended to image amyloid pathology for AD.

  • About Tauvid – The PET radiopharmaceutical binds to areas of the brain associated with tau protein misfolding, allowing physicians to estimate the density and distribution of aggregated tau neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), a primary marker of Alzheimer’s disease. NFT distribution and density measurements were previously only possible via autopsy.
  • First Study – The first Tauvid study scanned 156 terminally ill patients. Post-mortem pathologist reviews of the removed brains of 64 patients who died within 9 months found that Tauvid-based NFT density and distribution evaluations were highly accurate among patients with tau pathology and had average-to-high accuracy among patients without tau pathology.
  • Second Study – A second reader agreement study included the same 156 terminally ill patients, 18 additional patients with terminal illness, and 159 patients with cognitive impairment being evaluated for Alzheimer’s disease. Using a 0 to 1 scale (0 = no agreement, 1 = perfect agreement), the evaluators achieved an 0.87 reader agreement rate across all 241 patients, a 0.90 agreement rate among patients from the same groups, and a 0.82 rate among the terminally ill patients.

The Wire

  • AI Metrics’ Speed & Accuracy Evidence: A University of Alabama at Birmingham study found that AI Metrics’ AI Mass software improves the accuracy and doubles the speed of CT-based cancer treatment evaluations. The researchers had 24 radiologists and the AI Mass software evaluate CT images from 120 patients undergoing treatment for advanced cancer, finding that the AI-assisted approached increased accuracy by 25%, reduced major errors by 99%, improved inter-reader agreement by 45%, and was nearly two times faster than current practice methods.
  • Imaging Volume’s Drop & Rebound: Healthcare Administrative Partners shared some new insights into COVID-19’s impact on imaging volumes, revealing that their radiology practice clients’ volumes started falling in early March, saw the greatest drop during the week of March 29 as stay-at-home orders were expanded, and appeared to bottom out during the week of April 19 (60% below avg.). Volumes were still 46% below average during the week of May 10, but three straight weeks of increases (4/26 – 5/10) and the imminent rescheduling of necessary imaging suggest that volumes will eventually rebound above historical baselines. However, it’s harder to project how and when this rebound will play out.
  • GBCAs in Tokyo’s Rivers: The Marine Pollution Bulletin revealed that Japan’s significant MRI utilization growth in recent decades drove a 5 to 6.6 times increase in gadolinium levels found in Tokyo’s rivers compared to 22 years ago. Noting that gadolinium levels were particularly high near wastewater treatment plants and suggesting that Japan’s MRI utilization will continue to grow, the study encouraged more efforts to reduce contamination.
  • Arterys’ $28M: AI platform developer Arterys announced a $28m Series C round, increasing its total to $71m raised so far. Arterys will use the new funding to broaden its portfolio of Arterys Marketplace partners and solutions, primarily by making its AI development technology available to app developers.
  • Fujifilm & Hitachi Delayed: Like most things planned for July 2020, Fujifilm’s acquisition of Hitachi’s imaging business has been delayed until a later date. Fujifilm and Hitachi announced the $1.6b acquisition in December 2019 and were originally scheduled to complete the transaction next month.
  • CV19 Patient Isolation Bags: A new NIH study found that disposable patient isolation bags might help protect against COVID-19 transmission during CT scans, while avoiding the workflow impact of current CT machine/room decontamination methods (30-90 minutes). The study evaluated a number of isolation bag designs, finding that their final hypoallergenic plastic polymer-based design that covers the patient’s head and chest allowed a >14-fold patient scan volume efficiency improvement (144 vs. 10 patients a day).
  • GE AIR Recon DL Cleared: GE Healthcare announced the FDA approval of its AIR Recon DL application, which uses deep learning-based MRI reconstruction to improve signal-to-noise and image sharpness and reduce scan times. GE touted the Edison platform-based application as the first deep learning-based image reconstruction tech that works across all anatomies and emphasized how AIR Recon DL’s speed and quality improvements would help imaging providers support the upcoming CV19 imaging backlog.
  • CureMetrix on Nuance Marketplace: CureMetrix announced that its cmTriage breast cancer screening solution is now available on the Nuance AI Marketplace, expanding the solutions to Nuance’s massive PowerScribe customer base (80% of U.S. radiologists, over 7,000 connected healthcare facilities). The integration advances both companies’ platform-based strategies, as Nuance continues to add new partners and CureMetrix was already available on the Nanox and Terarecon/Envoy AI platforms.
  • The Case for Breast MRI Screenings: New research from UCSF found that using breast MRI for high-risk women’s initial screenings produced high enough cancer detection rates to justify its greater potential for false positive/negative results. The retrospective study of 310 breast MRIs (71 initial screenings, 239 follow-ups) revealed that using MRI for initial screenings resulted in higher cancer detection rates (85 vs. 29 per 1k patients) and higher sensitivity (100% vs. 88%). The researchers viewed these results high enough to offset the practice’s higher rates of abnormal interpretations (52% vs. 19%), higher biopsy rates (49% vs. 15%), and lower sensitivity (55% vs. 83%), particularly because abnormal/biopsy rates improve with subsequent MRIs.
  • Digirad’s $5M: Digirad announced the closing of a $5m public stock offering. Although Digirad is best known to Imaging Wire readers for its imaging business (nuclear imaging cameras, diagnostic services, mobile imaging services), the company’s recent diversification into housing materials (e.g. wood panels for construction) doesn’t guarantee this funding will go towards its imaging business.
  • 626 Acquires Innovatus’ CR/DR Business: Medical equipment servicer 626 Holdings acquired Innovatus Imaging’s CR and DR business assets, adding to 626’s existing imaging service/supply portfolio acquired via Walsh Imaging in 2017 (supports 3k northeast U.S. hospitals and imaging centers). Innovatus Imaging, which emerged as a major service player with its 2017 acquisitions of Bayer, Wetsco and MD Medtech’s 3rd party servicing businesses will retain its core ultrasound and MR operations.

The Resource Wire

– This is sponsored content.

  • In its latest Q&A, Nuance sat down with CureMetrix’s Kevin Harris to discuss how cmTriage helps radiologists triage, prioritize, identify, mark, and score mammography images, and share about CureMetrix’s AI Marketplace partnership with Nuance.
  • Hitachi Healthcare Americas’ latest blog provides some insights into what “normal” imaging operations will look like as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Vessel suppression from Riverain Technologies’ ClearRead CT software was recently found to significantly improve nodule detection, interreader agreement, and reading time with oncologic chest CT scans.
  • The GE Healthcare Venue Go features a uniquely adaptable design, a simple interface, and streamlined probe layout so you can go through your day quickly, efficiently, confidently.

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