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Radiography job market remains tight, while digital path continues

by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | November 30, 2014
Molecular Imaging Pediatrics
From the November 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Quick return on investment
Just as the images taken with direct digital radiography appear in seconds, the return on investment was fast when Presence Saint Joseph Hospital in Elgin, Ill., received a Carestream DRX-Revolution mobile X-ray unit last December and installed its new DR room in February. It helped that a state grant and contribution from a local radiology group allowed the 184-bed hospital to make the switch without the high upfront costs — the main barrier for many facilities in upgrading from computed radiography to faster and more efficient digital systems.

“It was a very easy switch to make,” says Sandy Lancaster, the manager of medical imaging for Presence Saint Joseph. Out of the 85,000 imaging exams done each year at Presence Saint Joseph, Lancaster estimates that around 30,000 are X-ray. Before, the average patient could spend up to 10 minutes in the room for a chest X-ray with the CR technology. With DR, the time is cut to as little as two minutes. Improved image quality means radiation dose has also been reduced by up to 40 percent, Lancaster says. “We consider not just the monetary return on investment, but more importantly the patient safety issues and our productivity,” Lancaster says.
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A 2013 survey by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists of more than 1,000 department managers and directors of hospital-based radiology departments in the U.S., working in different modalities and specialty practice areas, found that the average medical imaging facility has 4.5 X-ray machines and examines 20,326 patients each year. By comparison, facilities have an average of two CT scanners and examine 10,279 CT patients annually. They also examine 6,457 patients each year on average using ultrasound and an average of 4,272 patients using MRI.

Though CR is still in use, the buying trends have dramatically shifted to DR. Michelle Edler, general manager of Global X-ray at GE Healthcare, says 95 percent of the company’s sales are in DR, with the vast majority from integrated systems sales rather than digital upgrade kits.

It’s clear that greater productivity is the key to running an efficient imaging department. Hospitals are continuing to buy new equipment. A report released last year by market research firm IMV, found that 60 percent of U.S. hospitals were planning to purchase at least one DR or CR unit by 2016, a 4 percent increase from 2010. Of those planned purchases, 90 percent will be DR units, while just 10 percent will use CR technology. The survey also indicated that 40 percent of hospital radiology departments already have DR technology, while 59 percent use CR technology.

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