GI pathologists will be interested in how the Endoculus device uses tank-like treads to traverse the gastrointestinal tract, where it can capture images and perform biopsies
Gastroenterologists (GI) may soon gain a useful new tool for use in gathering both biopsies and diagnostic information when examining the gastrointestinal tract. Ongoing development of a new robotic device promises both capabilities using technology that will be of interest to GI pathologists and clinical laboratory scientists.
The minute robotic device uses tank-like treads to traverse the colon. While there, it can capture live images and perform biopsies under the control of a gastroenterologist. The researchers believe the robotic technology will benefit GIs performing the colonoscopies as well as the pathologists called upon to analyze biopsies.
AMTL researcher Gregory Formosa, PhD, said the team’s goal is to “have a capsule-sized robot that can actively traverse [a patient’s] entire gastrointestinal tract and send out diagnostics in real time, as well as autonomously navigate itself to localize problematic areas within [the] intestinal tract.”
Formosa noted that colorectal cancer is “the third-most fatal and diagnosed cancer in the United States.” But if caught at an early stage, these cancers are “95% treatable,” he added. “So, if we can get people screened early, we definitely can reduce the fatality rate of colorectal cancers significantly.”
One key to the device are the four treads, which are designed for traction on digestive tissue.
“You have to forget about everything you know from a locomotion standpoint because driving around inside the body is very different than driving around in a car,” said Rentschler in the University of Colorado news story. “The environment is highly deformable. It’s very slick. There are sharp peaks that you have to go over.”
The university news story noted the current availability of ingestible “pill cams” that can take photos as they travel through the digestive system. But once swallowed, their movements cannot be controlled.
“For our robots to be able to reach those regions that [can be] reached with a pill-cam—but also be able to stop and look around—that could be a big paradigm shift in the way we view these procedures,” said Micah Prendergast, PhD, an AMTL research team member.
Could Biopsies Be Diagnosed In Situ with Endoculus?
The researchers currently view Endoculus as a potentially better way to perform conventional biopsies. But could it lead to bigger advancements?
“Researchers continue to develop devices to help various specialist physicians—in this case GIs—do more when treating patients,” said Dark Daily Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Robert Michel. “This device fits that description. It is designed to improve the ability of GIs to evaluate the colon. Not only does this device do that, but it can also collect a biopsy at sites of interest. In this way, it is a device that can be a benefit to pathologists who will analyze the biopsy.
“With improvements in digital cameras and associated AI-powered analytical tools, the day might not be far off when a device like this can use the camera and artificial intelligence to diagnose the tissue of interest in situ,” he added. “This might create the opportunity for pathologists to be present in the exam room during the procedure, or even viewing the images remotely.
“Not only would that eliminate the need to collect a tissue specimen that must then be sent to a pathology lab, but it would create a new opportunity for pathologists to add value to patient care while shortening the time to diagnosis for the tissue of interest during these procedures,” Michel noted.
Clinical laboratories that service both settings could be impacted as new CMS proposed rule attempts to align Medicare’s payment policies for outpatient and in-patient settings
Hospital outpatient revenue is catching up to inpatient
revenue, according to data released from the American
Hospital Association (AHA). This increase is part of a growing trend to
reduce healthcare costs by treating patients outside of hospital settings. It’s
a trend that is supported by the White House and Medicare and continues to
laboratories, which serve both hospital inpatient and outpatient customers.
The AHA published this study data in its annual Hospital Statistics, 2019Edition. The data comes from a 2017 survey of 5,262
US hospitals. The report includes data about utilization, revenue, expenses,
and other indicators for 2017, as well as historical data.
The AHA statistics on outpatient revenue suggest providers
nationwide are working to keep people out of more expensive hospital settings. Hospitals,
laboratories, appear to be succeeding at developing outpatient and outreach
services that generate needed operating revenue.
This aligns with Medicare’s push to make healthcare more accessible through outpatient settings, such as urgent care clinics and physician’s offices. A growing trend Dark Daily has covered extensively.
In its coverage of
the AHA’s study, Modern Healthcare reported that 2017
hospital net inpatient revenue was $498 billion and net outpatient revenue was
The Becker’s Hospital CFO Report notes that
gross inpatient revenue in 2017 was $92.7 billion higher than gross outpatient
revenue. But in 2016, gross inpatient revenue was much further ahead—$129.5
billion more than gross outpatient revenue. The “divide” between inpatient and
outpatient revenue is narrowing, Becker’s reports.
report also stated:
Admissions increased by less than 1% to 34.3
million in 2017, up from 34 million in 2016;
Inpatient days were flat at 186.2 million;
Outpatient visits rose by 1.2% to 766 million in
Outpatient revenue increased 5.7% between 2016
Similar Study Offers Additional
Insight into 2018 Outpatient Revenue
A benchmarking report by Crowe,
a public accounting, consulting, and technology firm, which analyzed data from
622 hospitals for the period January through September of 2017 and 2018, showed
the following, as reported by RevCycleIntelligence:
Inpatient volume was up 0.6% in 2018 and gross
revenue per case grew by 5.3%;
Outpatient services rose 2.4% in 2018 and gross
revenue per case was up 7.1%.
Have Lower Prices for Some Hospital Outpatient Services
Everything, however, is relative. When certain healthcare
services traditionally rendered in physician’s offices are rendered, instead,
in hospital outpatient settings, the numbers tell a different story.
In fact, according to the Health
Care Cost Institute (HCCI), the price for services was “always higher” when
performed in an outpatient setting, as compared to doctor’s offices.
HCCI analyzed services at outpatient facilities as well as
those appropriate to freestanding physician offices. They found the following
differences in 2017 prices:
Diagnostic and screening ultrasound: $241 in
physician’s office—$650 in hospital outpatient setting;
Level 5 drug administration: $254 in office—$664
in hospital outpatient setting;
Upper airway endoscopy: $527 in office—$2,679 in
hospital outpatient setting.
Rule Would Change How Hospital Outpatient Clinics Get Paid
In a news
release, CMS stated that it “is moving toward site neutral payments for
clinic visits (which are essentially check-ups with a clinician). Clinic visits
are the most common service billed under the OPPS [Medicare’s Hospital
Outpatient Prospective Payment System). Currently, CMS often pays more for
the same type of clinic visit in the hospital outpatient setting than in the
physician office setting.”
“CMS is also proposing to close a potential loophole through
which providers are billing patients more for visits in hospital outpatient
departments when they create new service lines,” the news release states.
Hospitals are fighting the policy change through a lawsuit, Fierce Healthcare reported.
In summary, clinical laboratories based in hospitals and
health systems are in the outpatient as well as inpatient business. Medical laboratory
tests contribute to growth in outpatient revenue, and physician offices compete
with clinical laboratories for some outpatient tests and procedures. Thus, a new
site-neutral CMS payment policy could affect the payments hospitals receive for
clinic visits by Medicare patients.
Once thought to be separate components, the new model of a contiguous mesentery could lead to new medical laboratory tools for diagnosing and treating digestive diseases such as Crohn’s and colorectal cancer
For more than a century, pathology professionals have treated the network of tissue folds surrounding the human digestive system, known as the mesentery, as separate entities. However, new research indicates the mesentery is in fact a single, continuous organ and therefore reverses that thinking. This could impact the way pathologists and medical laboratories currently perform diagnostics and testing of digestive diseases.
This low-cost solution opens new doors for low-resource regions and, in many cases, allows operators to rule out malignancy without the need for a pathologist to review biopsies
Rapid development of endoscopic technologies is bringing medical professionals closer to point-of-care pathology than ever before. The goal is to allow physicians to identify diseased or cancerous tissue in situ and reduce or eliminate the need to biopsy tissue for examination by surgical pathologists.
Measuring 1-mm in diameter, the probe works using the existing accessory channel of the endoscope. Touching it to the surface of the tissue provides real-timein vivo images to the technician at up to 12 frames per second on an accompanying tablet display. Images are enhanced using visual overlays and an algorithm that highlights the nuclei of cells within the field of view. The HRME system is battery powered and fits in a briefcase for easy transport. (more…)
Employers and health insurers want more consumers use healthcare cost estimator tools and pride when choosing a hospital, physician, or clinical laboratory
Having put millions of consumers into high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) as one way to control healthcare costs, both employers and health insurers are now challenged to help these same consumers do better at using price and quality factors when selecting providers.
One solution to this problem is to encourage physicians to play a greater role in helping their patients use price and quality when it is time to select a provider. Obviously, these decisions can involve which clinical laboratory or anatomic pathology practice a patient should select when he or she needs medical laboratory testing.