A heated Twitter conversation revealed widespread discontent with imaging’s outdated and fragmented IT infrastructure, suggesting that it’s draining radiologist productivity and standing in the way of AI adoption.
This tweet by Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Anton Becker, MD, PhD got things started: “95% of radiology departments would do well to direct 100% of their AI efforts and budget towards upgrade and maintenance of PACS, RIS and dictation software for the next 5 years… Our field is plagued by legacy software.”
And here’s what the ensuing replies and retweets revealed:
- PACS Productivity – Nearly everyone agreed that their overall imaging IT setup was insufficient, with one rad estimating that a “supercharged PACS” would improve his productivity by 30%, and another noting that workflow customization would “at least double” her speed and accuracy.
- Imaging IT Revolution – Some called upon the “legacy” PACS, RIS, and voice recognition vendors to make more “revolutionary changes,” rather than settling for tweaks to current setups. Others proposed government intervention.
- IT Isn’t Flashy – One thing that might be holding some imaging IT overhauls back is “it’s not as flashy to boast” about high-quality infrastructure, and “the people who have authority to allocate resources are more motivated by flash than function.”
- Holistic IT – Eventually the conversation led to several well received proposals that we “eliminate the idea of PACS as a category and start thinking more holistically about radiology IT.” In other words, this might be more of a “fragmentation problem” than a PACS/RIS/voice functionality problem (or an AI budget problem).
Even if RadTwitter tends to skew towards academic radiologists and often focuses on what’s going wrong, this conversation indicates widespread dissatisfaction with current imaging IT setups, and suggests that radiologist productivity (and perhaps accuracy and burnout) would improve significantly if imaging IT worked as they’d like it to work.
It’s debatable whether this imaging IT problem is actually due to an unnecessary focus on AI (very little of the conversation actually focused on AI), but it does seem reasonable that rad teams with solid infrastructure would be more likely to embrace AI.
Intelerad continued its M&A streak, acquiring radiology reporting company, PenRad Technologies, in a relatively small deal that might have a much bigger impact than some think.
PenRad has a solid share of the breast and lung cancer screening reporting segments, making it a target of a number of PACS vendors in recent years.
The acquisition is another example of Intelerad using its private equity backing to complete its informatics portfolio, following a series of deals that allowed its expansions into new clinical areas (cardiac, OB/GYN), regions (UK), technologies (cloud), and functionalities (image sharing, cloud VNA).
Adding PenRad will immediately give Intelerad three proven cancer screening reporting solutions to offer to its PACS customers, while bringing Intelerad into an untold number of PenRad accounts that it didn’t work with before now.
The deal’s long-term impact will likely be dictated by how well Intelerad integrates and enhances its new PenRad technologies. If Intelerad is able to seamlessly integrate its PACS/worklist with PenRad’s dictation/reporting, it could create a truly unique advantage — especially if Intelerad expands its reporting capabilities beyond just cancer screening.
Intelerad’s PenRad acquisition and Sirona’s unified radiology platform also highlight the differentiating role that integrated reporting might play in future enterprise imaging portfolios, although there aren’t many more reporting companies still available for acquisition.
Informatics veterans might point out that it’s much easier to acquire a portfolio of companies than it is to integrate all that software — and they’d be correct. That said, most would also agree that Intelerad has assembled a uniquely comprehensive enterprise imaging portfolio and it would be extremely well-positioned if/when that portfolio becomes fully integrated.
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.