Each year, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) hosts its annual meeting in Chicago directly after Thanksgiving (end November). RSNA 2017 featured hundreds of companies presenting their wares to some 55,000 attendees. The Australian and New Zealand contingents featured dozens of radiologists, including the leaders of significant imaging practices such as I-MED, Primary, Sonic and two ASX-listed radiology companies, ourselves and Pro Medicus.
Artificial intelligence (AI) dominates RSNA 2017
This year’s meeting had a clear theme, AI, featuring in both academic talks and in the trade show booths, with special areas set up for companies targeting these technologies. Radiology is all about images, so the ability to make computers see like humans (computer vision) is, for radiology, a very important subset of AI. Companies vary in their approaches, from straight machine learning (give the computer data and let it learn) through to more common-sense approaches where you model it off human intelligence and create software to emulate that (Volpara’s approach). The companies varied from new start-ups looking at all angles of radiology (albeit the same problems targeted over 20 years ago) through to the bigger companies seeking to make themselves relevant in today’s high-tech world—both IBM and Google had prominent stands this year. However, despite the prominence of AI, most are some way from the regulatory clearances achieved by Volpara with clear concerns from the FDA about devices that “continue to learn” and are not easily explained.
An established sales team
In addition to showcasing our products, we use RSNA as an opportunity to host our own annual sales team meeting, where we run through aims and learnings for the year and prepare the team for the show, and for the forthcoming year. The sales team was buoyant since we’ve already exceeded last year’s total contract value (TCV), more than doubled annual recurring revenue (ARR) and have a very strong pipeline of deals set to close in Q3 (end December) and Q4 (end March). RSNA is not a place where deals can be signed (it’s actually illegal to do that on the show floor), but it is a place where sites close to buying come to get final confirmation. This year, conference statistics showed we had some 3,000 people in and around our booth and generated nearly 200 new leads, setting up a great pipeline for the year ahead.
At this year’s RSNA exhibition, Volpara’s seventh, our stand was designed in New Zealand by our in-house graphic designer and was a strong statement about our intent and place in the world of breast imaging. Given the concerns in the US around the FDA EQUIP regulations, our stand was focused on VolparaEnterprise, highlighting two new features: an easy way to reidentify patients (a free upgrade) and a new risk counsellor role which provides a list of patients in a fast, easy, automated fashion that might be worth running a full risk model over (a paid addition). Many of these women might qualify for reimbursement for high-risk screening.
Two new concept products
At the booth, we also presented two product concepts for feedback purposes. The first was VolparaEnterprise Live!, a real-time feedback system on image quality for the technologist. This was very well received, and we have plans to launch this towards the end of 2018, once we receive regulatory clearance. The second was VolparaEnterprise Now!, a dashboard showing current status of x-ray systems along with a ticker-tape of interesting events. This was the surprising star of the show for us, with centres looking to engage staff more significantly in quality. We’ll be looking to launch this formally during 2018, as it does not require regulatory clearance.
The conference also features a large academic show, and we were fortunate to be the subject of at least four talks. St George’s (UK) and Cambridge University (UK) talked about breast density, while Istituto Oncologico Veneto (Italy) talked about radiation dose; our work with the Royal Surrey Hospital (UK) on image quality also featured.
RSNA 2017 marked a maturing for Volpara: we had a record number of solid leads, exhibited an established product with numerous supporting abstracts and fielded a strong and educated sales force to engage prospective customers.