Mayo and Google’s Transformation | Surprise Billing’s Bad Guys | Lung Cancer Screening’s Blood Test

“These physician-staffing companies are benefiting tremendously from the ability to bill out-of-network.”

Yale professor, Zack Cooper, on the key role that balance billing serves in some physician-staffing firms’ business models.

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
  • Nuance – AI and cloud-powered technology solutions to help radiologists stay focused, move quickly, and work smarter
  • Pocus Systems – A new Point of Care Ultrasound startup, combining a team of POCUS veterans with next-generation genuine AI technology to disrupt the industry
  • Qure.ai – Making healthcare more accessible by applying deep learning to radiology imaging

The Imaging Wire

Mayo and Google Transform Healthcare

Mayo Clinic and Google just signed a 10-year partnership that will combine Google’s cloud and AI capabilities with Mayo’s clinical expertise to improve healthcare “through the transformative impact of understanding insights at scale.”

  • The Deal – Mayo and Google’s partnership will still be based around cloud storage. However, they will also collaborate on new healthcare products leveraging AI/ML, cloud computing, and data analytics that will become the core of Mayo’s “bold, new digital strategy.” To support this transformation, Google will open an engineering office near Mayo’s Rochester, Minnesota headquarters to team-up with Mayo clinicians.
  • Mayo’s Ambitions – With a million patients a year and a long history of innovation, any breakthroughs that come from this alliance would make a big impact even if they stayed within Mayo’s walls. However, Mayo Clinic plans to extend these AI models and other solutions to healthcare providers across the world.

Lung Cancer Screening’s Blood Test Step

The Early Detection of Cancer of the Lung Scotland (ECLS) trial revealed that a new blood test can help detect lung cancer earlier, allowing for earlier treatment and lower mortality rates.

  • Study – The study looked at over 12k adults between 50 and 75 with a high risk of developing lung cancer within 24 months. The participants were screened with the EarlyCDT-Lung blood test and people who tested positive received low-dose CT scans, which together identified 32% of all lung cancers that occurred with 90% specificity.
  • Results – Two years after taking the blood test, the number of participants who had a late-stage lung cancer diagnosis was reduced by more than a third compared to people who received normal care. The blood test may also reduce unnecessary imaging by two thirds.
  • Significance – The study is a step towards achieving earlier lung cancer diagnosis, understanding that the disease is difficult to spot early and scanning alone results is a high level of false positives.

KHN and Surprise Billing’s Bad Guys

Kaiser Health News shared a new perspective on the public campaigns to stop surprise billing legislation (or at least stop median benchmark rate settlements) that dominated political advertising throughout the summer, suggesting that the PE and VC-funded campaigns were not as pro-patient and pro-physician as they claimed.

KHN didn’t paint a benevolent picture of the pro-physician side of the surprise billing argument, depicting it as being run by “dark-money groups with innocuous names.” The motivations behind these lobbying efforts weren’t much better, as KHN quoted a surprise billing expert who explained that “private equity firms are buying up physician practices that allow them to bill out-of-network, cloaking themselves in the halo that physicians generally receive and then actively watering down any legislation that would both protect patients but affect their bottom line.”

There are two sides to this debate, but folks who read this article may be more likely to favor the insurer-backed side.

The Wire

  • Signify Research reports that after a strong 2018, the global ultrasound market slowed through the first half of 2019 and is expected to maintain that trend through the end of the year. The ultrasound slowdown is mainly driven by challenges in N. America (low single digit growth, strongest in premium and handheld), W. Europe (returns to its historical average of 2% growth), China (first time below 10% growth due to economic uncertainty), and Japan (potential for double digit decline due to consumption tax). The declines in these major economies will outweigh solid years in L. America (mid-single digit growth, driven by Mexico), Africa (double-digit growth), and Russia (double-digit growth).
  • Life Image launched a new enhancement and validation service that improves the Google Cloud Healthcare API’s de-identification functionality. The new Life Imaging service uses a combination of machine learning and human validators to help Google Cloud Healthcare API clients satisfy personal healthcare information (PHI) compliance standards and streamline the de-identification process.
  • A Duke study found that race and gender continue to influence the language used in residency recommendation letters. A review of 2,624 diagnostic radiology residency recommendation letters for 736 applicants found that letters for female, white, and Asian applicants were more likely to include agentic language (e.g. “ambitious,” “direct,” “influential,”) compared to letters for male, black, and Latino applicants. The study also found that letters were more likely to describe applicants with both agentic and communal language (e.g. “team-player,” “friendly,” “collaborative,”) if they are written by women (vs. men) or written by senior ranking faculty (vs. junior faculty).
  • Digirad diversified well beyond medical imaging this week with its acquisition of housing materials company ATRM Holdings for $3 million. Digirad is best known for its solid-state gamma nuclear imaging cameras and provides diagnostic services (imaging systems/staff/services to healthcare clinics) and mobile imaging services, but will soon be part of a holding company that also makes wall panels and wood foundations for commercial and residential construction.
  • Novarad landed an OpenSight AR System deal with George Washington University Hospital, making the D.C. area the hospital the first in the U.S. to use AR technology to assist a surgical operation. The OpenSight Augmented Reality System combines a Microsoft HoloLens rig with Novarad’s image processing tech to render 2D, 3D and 4D patient images and overlay them directly onto a patient’s body for pre-operative planning. This is a big deal for Novarad and pre-surgical AR and is worth keeping an eye on.
  • A survey from IMV Medical Information Division published on AuntMinnie.com (n= 190 radiology, cardiology, and surgery/hybrid OR leaders) found that fixed C-arm use is increasing and diversifying. A notable 75% of respondents plan to increase their fixed C-arm volume, aligning with a trend towards more fixed C-arm use in minimally invasive procedures and less use in open surgery procedures over the next 2-3 years (41% agreement rate). IMV sees strong demand for new fixed C-arm systems, as 58% of respondents revealed that they will be or might be acquiring new systems by 2022, with surgery departments driving 27% of this demand (mainly first-time placements) and the rest of the volume coming from radiology or cardiology-related departments (mainly replacements).

The Resource Wire

  • Did you know that imaging patients are most likely to no-show for their procedures on Mondays and Saturdays? By partnering with Medmo, imaging centers can keep their schedules full, despite the inevitable Monday no-shows.
  • This Carestream case study compares images of foot trauma captured using the OnSight 3D Extremity System to images captured on 2D X-rays.
  • Profound Medical announced yet another Focused Ultrasound Foundation-related advancement with the FDA clearance of its TULSA-PRO transurethral ultrasound device for the MRI-guided ablation of prostate tissues.

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