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NextGen

A conceptual drawing of the NextGen Precision Health Institute, scheduled to open in Columbia, Mo., in 2021. University of Missouri photo

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The University of Missouri System and Siemens Healthineers announced Friday a 10-year partnership to boost Missouri-based research and improve health outcomes.

The goal, the two entities said in a news release, is to "transform the way health care is delivered in Missouri and beyond." The partnership is called the Alliance for Precision Health, and includes Siemens delivering "advanced medical imaging equipment" to the Columbia campus.

The partnership was more than a year in the making. Research will take place at the long-planned NextGen Precision Health Institute in Columbia. The company will provide training and technology to the system's three other campuses, in St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla.

Siemens' resources will allow the university to modernize curricula and benefit patients, it said in a news release. The Munich-based health care technology company, in turn, will be able to use information gleaned from the real-world application of its equipment to better inform its practices.

"Both groups are on a mission to innovate fast," David Pacitti, president and head of Americas, Siemens Healthineers, said in an interview. "In the health care system, in the United States, over time, everyone's going to be measured on making sure the patient gets the right test at the right time and the right diagnosis, and reducing errors. And that takes cost out of the system.

"Cost is such a huge burden on the health care system in the United States, so both parties here — Siemens Healthineers and the University of Missouri —are committed to not only taking cost out but doing it in a way that improves outcomes," he said.

The partnership comes with a workforce development component as Siemens seeks to snap up biomedical engineering talent to propel its efforts.

"There's a shortage of biomedical engineers," Pacitti said. "Biomedical engineers do a lot of different things, but in our world it's servicing equipment in hospitals, and we want to do a program where we help develop a biomedical engineering workforce.

"The intention is that there'll be a lot of jobs here," Pacetti said.

"Siemens cannot hire engineers fast enough," said Elizabeth Loboa, dean of the MU College of Engineering.

A copy of the agreement between the company and the university was not immediately available, but a news release said the agreement was "valued at $133 million."

University officials said the agreement might contain proprietary information, and that an open records request would be necessary to obtain the document.

Included in the $133 million valuation, said Christian Basi, spokesman for the UM System, is the value of the equipment Siemens is providing along with the work needed to install it. Also included is "access to services to help us improve performance," which Basi described as an "intangible" benefit.

Basi said MU Health Care, as part of the deal, signed a 10-year purchasing agreement to replace outgoing equipment with Siemens' products, when possible.

Pacitti said revenue generated from research breakthroughs the two entities develop would be shared between the university and the company.

"If we develop something together, we sort of market it and monetize it jointly, together," Pacitti said. "And we will work on innovating and developing new things together as a group.

He said in most cases, proceeds would be split equally between the two.

"I don't have the particulars, there might be some areas where it might be different, but I think the overall theme is that we'd share it together," Pacitti said.

The effects of the partnership will be felt in rural Missouri, where, in many areas, there is a shortage of health care professionals, said UM System President Mun Choi.

"Of the 101 rural counties in the state of Missouri, 99 have what we call health professional shortage areas," Choi said. "What this means is that the access to health care — that precision and personalized health care — available in rural parts of the state is limited compared to what we get in urban parts of the state."

As an example, the university said it will install a "syngo Virtual Cockpit," which will allow radiology technicians to connect to multiple locations remotely, helping staff in rural areas, "especially where more sophisticated examinations are required," according to a news release.

Other areas of collaboration include pediatric imaging — working to reduce the time it takes to scan a child, and the amount of "re-dos" necessary because of errors.

"As you can imagine, children don't like being imaged," Pacitti said. "They don't like being in a scanner of any sort. It's very scary to them and intimidating."

Pacitti said another focus would be in treatment of bariatric patients.

"They are a very difficult patient population to image due to the size of the patient," he said. "So we are working together on finding the right image and making sure the physician is seeing the image they need to."