AI matches radiologists at spotting lung cancer; S&P negative on imaging firm, plus more vendor news

An artificial intelligence algorithm developed by vendor Lunit detected lung cancer from chest x-rays at a rate similar to physicians, according to a study published Tuesday.

Scientists from Seoul National University College of Medicine recently tested out the deep learning program on more than 10,000 radiographs from a similar number of individuals. They found that the algorithm pinpointed nodules and notched sensitivity comparable to radiologists, and had a higher false-positive rate, experts reported in Radiology.

Based on their results, author Jong Hyuk Lee and colleagues believe South Korea-based Lunit’s program could prove useful, particularly to docs treating healthy populations with a lower prevalence of lung cancer. However, further studies—covering a wider variety of races and medical environments—are needed to generalize clinical use of the platform, Lee and colleagues cautioned.

Read more of their results in RSNA’s official journal here.

S&P outlook negative on Varex Imaging; rebound expected

Standard & Poor’s rating agency issued a “negative” outlook on Varex Imaging Tuesday, after the radiology manufacturer recently sought debt to help pay off its obligations.

COVID-19 has hit the Salt Lake City, Utah, vendor hard this year, with Varex battling slumping sales of its x-ray imaging components, which include tubes and digital detectors. To counter this trend, the company this week announced a private offering of $300 million in secured notes, needed to help pay off its existing credit lines, and cover other corporate expenses.

S&P issued its negative outlook the same day, saying it expects Varex to perform better in 2021 as imaging device sales recover in the back half of the year.

“The negative outlook reflects the risk Varex may recover more slowly than anticipated, given uncertainty around the resolution of COVID-19 pandemic and how quickly capital investments at end-customers will rebound,” Standard & Poor’s advised Sept. 22.

Philips inks 7-year agreement with Tampa General

Royal Philips has inked a seven-year agreement with Tampa General Hospital, the Amsterdam-based imaging giant announced Wednesday.

The “strategic partnership” will give one of the United States’ largest hospitals ongoing access to Philips’ latest innovations. That includes upgrading key imaging equipment in Tampa General’s cath labs and interventional radiology rooms and replacing all of the 1,006-bed hospital’s patient monitors. Philips said it’s also committing to provide “millions of dollars’ worth” of informatics, workflow and software solutions.

“This partnership allows us to stay on the leading edge of technology for many years to come, in a cost-effective way,” TGH President and CEO John Couris said in a Sept. 23 announcement.

RBMA taps lobbying firm in Medicare cut fight

The Radiology Business Management Association is working with a “reputable and successful” political and public affairs firm in its fight against Medicare pay cuts to the field.

RBMA wants to “intensify messaging” targeted at key Senate Finance and House Ways and Means members, and do such lobbying on politicians’ “home turf,” according to a member announcement.

The association is fighting 13% in expected cuts to radiology fees in 2021 to offset corresponding pay increases for certain primary care specialties. RBMA and numerous other specialty societies have repeatedly asked Congress to waive budget neutrality requirements, so the Medicare payment reductions are no longer required.

An analysis commissioned by the American College of Radiology estimated that diagnostic radiology would lose $452 million in a single year and $5.6 billion over a decade, if the Medicare cuts move forward.

Rapid fire

A few more radiology vendor news items of note, in rapid fashion:

  • Nous Imaging recently received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its software that addresses patient motion during brain MRI.
  • The artificial intelligence in medical imaging market could reach $1.5 billion by 2024, Signify Research said Tuesday.  
  • CMS has excluded iCAD’s intraoperative radiation therapy in its new bundled payment system.
  • VIDA recently received FDA clearance for enhancements to its LungPrint solution, aimed at improving automated segmentation of the lungs and lobes.
  • And finally, Hitachi has announced that it’s withdrawing from a $26 billion nuclear power project in the U.K., blaming the worsening investment environment.