#374 – The Wire

  • TCH’s Auto-Assignment Effect: After noticing that its neuroradiology workload wasn’t being evenly distributed (some rads not reading enough, some prioritizing easier studies), Texas Children’s Hospital adopted an automated neuroradiology assignment tool that evened-out workloads and improved turnaround times (TAT) for stat studies. Their RSNA presentation showed that automatically assigning non-stat MR and CTs to individual rads during daytime/weekday shifts, while leaving stat studies unassigned, reduced wRVU/radiologist disparities (hourly range decreased by 18%) and stat study TATs (83min to 59min), without affecting non-stat TATs (142min vs. 144min). 
  • Subtle & Bayer’s MR Enhancement Collaboration: Subtle Medical and Bayer launched a research collaboration that will explore how SubtleGAD could improve contrast-enhanced MRI exams, and potentially lead to new areas for contrast media use. This alliance might strike some as counterintuitive, but it’s pretty logical given their shared clinical goal (diagnostic efficiency/accuracy), overlapping expertise (enhancement), and the possibility that DLIR and contrast enhancement could prove to be better together.
  • COVID’s Brain MRI Volume Impact: A new Emory study found that early COVID lockdowns might have reduced brain MRI volumes, but its ratio of severe cases increased. Emory’s brain MRI volumes dropped by 17% between March-August 2019 and 2020 (6,745 vs. 5,601), while its share of high-acuity brain MRIs increased (Level 3: 34% to 40%). Even after brain MRI volumes rebounded in September-December 2020, Emory’s ratio of high-acuity findings remained far higher than the same period in 2019 (Level 3: 42.6% vs. 34.1%). 
  • Harrison.ai’s $97M: Australian AI startup Harrison.ai completed a massive $97M Series B round (total now ~$121M) that it will use to support its expansion into new regions and new healthcare areas. Harrison.ai’s healthcare expansion strategy will rely on a joint venture with major pathology/radiology provider Sonic Healthcare, that will focus on developing and commercializing pathology AI solutions. If this sounds familiar, Harrison.ai similarly created Annalise.ai through a JV with I-MED Radiology.
  • Big AI Valuations: Speaking of major AI funding rounds, CBInsights reports that private healthcare AI companies raised $8.5B through the first three quarters of 2021, surpassing 2020’s full-year total of $6.6B. Most of that funding didn’t go to imaging AI companies, but several imaging AI companies are included among 2021’s leaders for fundraising value (Exo & Infervision) and venture investment activity (Philips).
  • Blackford & 3M Integrate: Blackford announced a new alliance with 3M Health Information Systems that will integrate 3M M*Modal Fluency for Imaging into Blackford’s imaging AI platform in North America. This alliance seems to make a lot of sense given Blackford and 3M’s shared goal of improving reporting workflows, the upside of their respective installed bases, and the fact that their key competitor offers both speech and an AI marketplace.
  • Stroke Scout CTs: A Mayo Clinic stroke team developed a new workflow to rapidly screen wake-up stroke patients to confirm if they can safely undergo the MRI exams that are required to support thrombolytic therapy decisions. The team added full-body CT scout imaging to their acute stroke CT head protocol, allowing them to identify metallic implants that aren’t safe for MRI exams, and quickly scan MRI-safe patients.
  • Novarad’s Screening Partnerships: Novarad announced a trio of screening-focused partnerships at RSNA. Novarad expanded its breast cancer screening capabilities, announcing partnerships to integrate CureMetrix (mammography AI detection) and Ikonopedia (breast reporting and tracking) into its NovaMG PRO mammography platform. Novarad also enhanced its lung cancer screening capabilities, expanding its partnership with PenRad to offer PenLung (lung nodule tracking & reporting) and PenAlert (incidental tracking & reporting) with its NovaPACS enterprise imaging suite.
  • Commercial Radiology Premiums: A new Johns Hopkins and Michigan State study found that US hospitals charge commercial insurers up to six-times more than Medicare rates for radiology services, while revealing major variations between different hospitals. Analysis of 13 shoppable radiology services at 2k hospitals found median commercial premiums ranging from 2.2x for mammography ($289 commercial vs. $129 Medicare) to 5.9x for non-contrast head/brain CT ($813 vs. $137). Hospitals’ negotiated commercial rates in the 10th and 90th percentile could also be extremely different, most notably with brain MRI before and after contrast ($965 & $3,033) and contrast-enhanced abdominal CT ($791 & $3,024).

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-- The Imaging Wire team