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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

Lorna Young, senior director of market research at IMV, noted in the report that these purchases are being planned even though the total volume of X-ray procedures is declining, with a move to other modalities, such as CT, and because imaging is being done more often in non-hospital locations.

In 2013, an estimated 159.7 million X-ray procedures were performed in 4,960 U.S. hospital radiology departments using fixed generalX-ray equipment, according to the IMV report, compared with an estimated 182.9 million procedures conducted in 2010. The decrease in the number of procedures, along with the increase in productivity from DR units, may lead to a reduction in the number of Xray rooms necessary, the report states.

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David Webster, vice president of global sales and marketing for NeuroLogica, a subsidiary of Samsung, makes a strong prediction that in the next five years, the industry will see 100 percent turnover from CR to DR. However, for now CR is still alive. George Curley, senior sales marketing manager for digital imaging at Agfa, says the company has sold a lot more multi-plate CR systems than they’ve expected because of hospitals faced with budget constraints. There are now smaller tabletop CR systems that weigh 70 pounds.

“They’re the size of what laser printers were a few years ago,” Curley says. Meanwhile, film is still in use, though not at many hospitals. IMV found in 2013 that 1 percent of the installed units in U.S. hospitals used film, down from 4 percent in a report IMV published in 2010.

While it’s not clear exactly how much hospitals save by forgoing film, Robert Fabrizio, director of marketing for digital X-ray at Fujifilm, says DR typically improves efficiency by two times, meaning one DR room can handle the workload of two analog or CR rooms.

“We are seeing when a site upgrades one room at a time to DR, their technologists will naturally gravitate to the new DR room, Fabrizio says. “The hospital also begins to see a dramatic increase in their workflow efficiency. The resulting improved workload capability brings with it all the discernible benefits of DR, such as lower dose and higher image quality.”

A 2012 article in the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine estimated an annual savings of nearly $15,000 for a sample start-up urgent care facility using a CR filmless operation versus digital and assuming eight studies per day, seven days a week.

The rise of urgent care and the ‘value’ market
It’s not only hospitals that are looking to make the transition. One of the key trends is that facilities of all sizes are moving to digital. “We’re really seeing growth in the nonhospital market — smaller imaging centers, clinics, chiropractors,” says Helen Titus, Carestream’s marketing director of X-ray solutions. However, some smaller facilities and practices don’t have the volume to justify the cost of moving to digital, so Carestream still has a full CR product portfolio to meet their needs.

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