“The fact that you can get these structures from [a sample] a million times smaller than a speck of dust, that’s beautiful. It’s a new day for chemistry.”
Stanford University chemist, Carolyn Bertozzi, on her team’s development of a new molecular CT scanning technique that can image the structure of extremely small molecules and may have a major impact on the drug discovery process.
Imaging Wire Sponsors
- Carestream – Focused on delivering innovation that is life changing – for patients, customers, employees, communities and other stakeholders
- Focused Ultrasound Foundation – Accelerating the development and adoption of focused ultrasound
- Medmo – Helping underinsured Americans save on medical scans by connecting them to imaging providers with unfilled schedule time
- OpenMarkets – A marketplace for healthcare equipment, used by hundreds of hospitals and suppliers to buy and sell imaging equipment in the most efficient way possible.
- Pocus Systems – A new Point of Care Ultrasound startup, combining a team of POCUS veterans with next-generation technology to disrupt the industry
The Imaging Wire
Konica Minolta’s Growth Plan
Konica Minolta’s latest investor presentation provided new insights into the company’s three-year strategic plan and healthcare’s role within that plan. Konica Minolta’s overall strategy is to maximize profitability in its “core” businesses (e.g. print) and start generating more profit in its “growth” businesses (e.g. medical), as it invests in expanding to “new” businesses (e.g. bio-healthcare/precision medicine and IOT). That’s a pretty standard strategy. Although certainly part of Konica Minolta’s plan, healthcare’s financial contribution is forecast to decline over the next three years (FY2018-2021), with revenue share falling from 9% to 7% and share of operating profit falling from 6% to 5%. However, these share declines are largely due to the growth of its other businesses. KM’s healthcare revenue and profit is expected to grow due to “expanded collaboration” with its X-ray OEMs (read: expand DR lineup and perhaps presence), growing its ultrasound lineup and market share, and adding new medical workflow solutions to its PACS business. To us, this seems like Konica Minolta is on track to have a similar medical imaging role in 2021 as it does today. However, precision medicine is another story, which is the main target of KM’s latest investments, and on pace for more dramatic changes in the coming years.
Opioid Law to Promote Ultrasound-Guided Pain Treatment
As Winston Churchill (and Rahm Emanuel) once said, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” The new federal Opioids law (SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act) will create funding and maybe lead to clinical opportunities for ultrasound-guided technology (e.g. US-guided regional anesthesia and focused ultrasound). The recently-signed law includes a provision to promote the development of ultrasound-guided technologies as an alternative to using opioids for pain management (via technical assistance for development/testing). Let’s hope it works.
BCBS of Mass’ Freestanding Push
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts joined the growing group of insurers encouraging patients to use outside medical imaging centers instead of in-hospital imaging. BCBS announced that starting on January 1, it will give preference to freestanding imaging centers, subjecting patients who meet their deductible to lower co-insurance and co-payments at freestanding centers, while requiring higher co-payments for in-hospital imaging services. The health plan believes this change will promote lower-cost providers, which sounds accurate to us. However, the ACR spoke out against the move, indicating it may affect patient access to care in areas where few imaging centers are available. The ACR may be fighting this war on multiple fronts given that other groups like UnitedHealthcare are doing what they can to shift imaging outside the hospital, too.
Fujifilm’s Latest AI Investment
Fujifilm took another step towards its AI leadership goal, investing in Tokyo-based medical imaging AI company, LPixel, which specializes in technology to support efficient AI learning. The University of Tokyo spinoff first partnered with Fujifilm in April, providing the imaging giant with AI technology for use with its PACS system. Fujifilm and Lpixel will next work to integrate LPixel’s AI engines with Fujifilm’s endoscope systems, and “consider further joint developments” after that. Lpixel is far from Fujifilm’s first AI investment and isn’t expected to be it’s last, as Fujifilm has been especially active investing-in and partnering-with AI players (in addition to in-house investments) as it works to become an AI leader.
A New Day for Chemistry
Dubbed “a new day for chemistry” and prompting remarks like “I am blown away by this,” a new molecular CT scanning technique has the science community excited, and is delivering the type of quotes that The Imaging Wire quote team can only dream of some weeks. This new approach is based on electron diffraction imaging (common for larger proteins), but can image the structure of extremely small organic molecules like pharmaceuticals and hormones, giving scientists a new and potentially superior option for molecular imaging than the current options (X-ray Crystallography and Nuclear MR Spectroscopy). The new technique allows researchers to image structures from crystals that are one billionth the size required for X-ray Crystallography (and a million times smaller than a spec of dust). Not only that, the technique works very fast, is easy to perform, and may have a huge impact in drug discovery.
- A team of European industry and academic scientists are setting out to develop a hyperpolarized quantum MRI, utilizing a technique that combines diamond-based quantum sensing and medical imaging. Dubbed the MetaboliQs project, the team is specifically targeting improving diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases, as hyperpolarized MRI allows high-sensitivity and non-invasive imaging of key metabolic substrates in the heart and other organs.
- Canon Medical Systems announced the Japan launch of its new Viamo sv 7 handheld ultrasound. Canon’s first tablet-based ultrasound system emerged last spring at ECR 2018 and the Viamo sv 7’s Japan launch may mark the beginning of its global rollout.
- A team from Purdue University developed a new MRI technique that may help scientists visualize and evaluate the effect that vagus nerve electrical stimulation has on digestive disorders, potentially leading to improved treatment. The new technique would expose patients to different electrical stimulation settings, while viewing how the patient’s stomach responds with a contrast-enhanced MRI scan, until they identify the best setting to address that patient’s symptoms.
- Fujifilm SonoSite announced the launch of the redesigned SonoSite Institute, its customer-only online POCUS education platform. The updated platform launches with user experience upgrades, easier to find content, and reconfigured learning paths.
- Apple found its way into medical imaging news, following the US approval of a 3D printing patent that it applied for in 2014. The patent covers a method to print 3D models using triangular tessellation (essentially breaks the model into triangles), which could allow printers to define the strength of some parts of 3D models (e.g. edges) and allow for faster printing.
- Japanese researchers developed a deep learning algorithm that can detect aneurysms in time-of-flight MR angiography images with high sensitivity (91%–93%) and 4.8% to 13% better detection rates than radiologists’ initial reports. The new algorithm may automate aneurysm detection, reduce the number of “overlooked” aneurysms, and help improve radiologists’ initial assessments.
- Medical image exchange and cloud VNA company, Ambra Health, announced the launch of the Ambra App, an iOS app that allows healthcare providers and patients to access and securely share their PACS-connected medical images from their mobile device (including current and prior images).
- ViewRay’s continued its global expansion with an agreement with GenesisCare to bring its MRIdian Linac MRI-guided radiation therapy system to the UK for the first time. US-based company’s MRIdian Linac system has gained placements in France, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Turkey in recent months.
- British medical imaging software company, Feedback plc, raised £1.375 million ($1.75M) that it will use to build its sales and marketing team, expand its Cadran PACS customer base/customer support, fund the FDA clearance process for its TexRAD texture analysis software, and develop its US sales partnership with Imaging Endpoints. Although not mentioned in the announcement, GE Healthcare gained global rights to distribute TexRAD in April, suggesting that the software’s US expansion may be supported by a formidable partner.
- Arterys updated its cloud/DL-based Cardio AIMR cardiac MR image analysis solution, bringing “over 80 enhancements” that are intended to streamline clinician workflow with automated and editable ventricular volume measurements.
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- In this Focused Ultrasound Foundation video, four patients discuss their experiences with focused ultrasound treatments for essential tremor, bone tumors, uterine fibroids, and Parkinson’s disease – with details on how focused ultrasound treats these issues.
- POCUS Systems is approved as a Veteran Owned Business with the US Government Office of Veterans Business Development, paving the way for partnerships with the federal healthcare delivery systems.
- How much does a CT scan cost? According to Medmo, that depends. Scans made with the exact same device on the exact same body part could cost $225 at one facility and $2,500 at another. Medmo also provides some advice to make sure patients don’t pay too much for their scans, including using the Medmo Marketplace, where the average CT costs between $225 and $700.
- This OpenMarkets post details the potential impacts of the China Tariffs and steps to take to make sure healthcare providers are protected.
- It’s no secret that rural hospitals have a unique set of challenges, as they must balance a wide range of healthcare needs with limited budgets. This Carestream blog details how the DRX-Transportable System/Lite system allows healthcare facilities to upgrade to DR “easily and affordably,” while keeping their existing analogue equipment.