RSNA 2021 Reflections

The first in-person RSNA since COVID is officially a wrap. Hope you had a blast if you made it to Chicago and a productive week if you stayed home. We also hope you enjoy The Imaging Wire’s big takeaways from what might have been both the most special and most subdued RSNA ever.

Crowds & Conversations – We were already expecting 50% lower attendance than RSNA 2019, but the exhibit hall and cab lines looked more like 70% below 2019’s crowds (even less on Sunday & Wednesday). That said, most of the stronger companies had steady booth traffic and nearly every exhibitor emphasized that the attendees who did show up were ready to have high-quality conversations.

Focus on Productivity – Just about every product message at RSNA focused on productivity and efficiency, often with greater emphasis than clinical effectiveness. The modality-based efficiency enhancements seemed to be the most impactful, which is good news for technologist bandwidth and patient throughput, but might be bad news for rad burnout unless informatics/AI efficiency can catch up (it doesn’t seem like that happened this year).

Modality Milestones – The major OEMs did a good job making modalities cool again, debuting milestone innovations across both their MR (low-helium, low-field, reconstruction, coils) and CT (photon-counting, spectral, upgradability) lineups. We also saw the latest scanners take big strides in operator efficiency and patient experience. There weren’t many breakthroughs with X-ray or ultrasound, and most point-of-care ultrasound OEMs stayed home (rads aren’t their market anyway), but attendees seemed okay with that.

AI Showcase – The RSNA AI Showcase had solid traffic and high energy (especially on Mon & Tues), helped by continued AI buzz and the fact that RSNA finally let AI vendors out of the basement. The AI Showcase highlighted many of the trends we’ve been seeing all year, including larger vendors transitioning to AI platform strategies, an increased focus on workflow integration and care coordination, and a greater emphasis on radiologist efficiency. There were also far fewer brand-new AI tools than previous years, as many vendors focused on improving their current products and/or expanding their portfolio via partnerships. 

PACS Cloud Focus – PACS vendors continued to place a major emphasis on their respective cloud advantages, and there was a widespread consensus that cloud is on every imaging IT roadmap. The PACS vendors seemed to talk less about multi-ology enterprise imaging than previous years, and expanding EI beyond radiology/cardiology still seemed pretty futuristic for most players. It was also quite clear that most of the PACS players’ AI marketplaces/platforms haven’t been as prioritized as earlier announcements might have suggested.

Best RSNA Since… 2019 – We’ve heard some folks saying this was the “best RSNA ever” because it was easy to get around and it was great to see everyone, but those seem more like pandemic silver linings than “best ever” qualifications. Still, the imaging industry made the most of RSNA 2021, and everyone seemed truly happy to be together again after two long years of working from home. As long as COVID cooperates, we should be set up for an excellent RSNA 2022.

Intelerad Acquires Ambra

Intelerad just got a whole lot bigger, acquiring Ambra Health to create one of the industry’s most comprehensive image management companies.

Acquisition Details – The acquisition values the combined companies at $1.7b, expands their reach to nearly 2k global customers (including all of the US’ top 10 hospitals), and brings their headcount to roughly 1k team members. Ambra CEO, Morris Panner, will become Intelerad’s president and will lead the company alongside CEO, Mike Lipps.

Intelerad + Ambra Portfolio – The acquisition combines Intelerad’s PACS portfolio with Ambra’s cloud VNA, image exchange, custom integration services, and research and pathology capabilities. 

Competitive Impact – At least in terms of portfolio breadth, this acquisition moves Intelerad into enterprise imaging’s top tier (radiology, cardiology, archive, sharing), helping it expand beyond its radiology practice legacy and deeper into hospitals. However, the star of this acquisition may prove to be combining Ambra’s cloud VNA with Intelerad’s cloud PACS, which as we’ve seen from Visage and Change’s recent cloud takeovers, can be a very effective combination.

Intelerad Growth – Intelerad has taken full advantage of its PE-backing, making a series of acquisitions since mid-2020 that allowed expansions into new specialties (cardiac & OB/GYN), regions (UK), and technologies (cloud). Ambra is clearly its biggest investment and most significant expansion yet.

Get every issue of The Imaging Wire, delivered right to your inbox.

You're signed up!

It's great to have you as a reader. Check your inbox for a welcome email.

-- The Imaging Wire team