The cost of silver used in traditional x-ray film is on the rise and the increase has caused manufacturers to pass costs on to physicians. But it is also opening up the market for digital imaging systems, which are growing quickly in popularity.
A recent study from GBI Research found that the cost of silver has tripled since 2010. As such, film producers including Agfa and Fujifilm have raised their prices and passed those cost increases onto practices. However, not all facilities are doling out more money on film; many are shifting to digital systems instead.
As more hospitals focus on healthcare IT and replace old systems, it's paving the way for digital imaging growth. According to GBI, digitization of medical imaging will continue to grow as medical institutions choose it over traditional film imaging. Also, more procedures now and in the future will use diagnostic imaging, which will also drive demand for digital systems.
Many doctors have already caught on to the digital trend, and prefer to use digital imaging systems. Frederick Stange, a dentist in New York City, has used digital x-rays for about six years now. He says that he did not go digital due to silver costs; the quality was what enticed him to purchase a digital system. "Silver costs should be the last reason to switch to digital," he says. "The images that we produce rival film." He says digital imaging is also better for the environment because it does not require transportation and disposal of chemicals. "This is a reusable resource for thousands on thousands of x-rays," he says. "Digital saves not only money in silver cost but chemicals as well." For Murray Grossman, an ear-nose-throat specialist in California, the other advantage to using digital imaging is the storage. He says it is easy to send images to readers, other doctors and even patients. "If film were to become free I still wouldn't use it," he added.
The GBI report found that the market for Medical Imaging Information Systems (MIIS) on a global scale is expected to reach $7.3 billion by 2017 (at a 10% Compound Annual Growth Rate), In 2010, it was valued at $3.7 billion.