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The changing face of mobile medical

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | December 05, 2014
Mobile Imaging
A modular lab from Modular Devices
From the December 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

In conversation with HealthCare Business News, Jim Gallagher, president of LG Medical Technologies, ominously proclaims, “The days of mobile routes for MR and CT are over.” For a man who largely makes his living putting imaging equipment in trailers, this seems like a rather bleak stance to take. Gallagher says the industry has to change.

This sentiment was echoed by other industry insiders. The expectation for organic growth is not high. Reimbursement issues have stifled business, and many of the small budget hospitals that once depended on mobile imaging have crossed over to onsite scanners to meet the growing demand for MR and CT.

But it turns out that’s only one small part of a much bigger story. Gallagher, for instance, says his company reported substantial double-digit growth this year. It appears that in 2014, there may be more to medical mobility than just mobility.

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No longer trailing behind
For medical trailer manufacturers, business is shifting gears. As the fleet of mobile units in service gets older, Bob Bachman, president of sales for Advanced Mobility, has witnessed renewed interest in mobilizing new medical equipment by the OEMs. “Our view of the world is that people are making more, and better long-term decisions. More decisions with the long-term view of their mobile fleets,” says Bachman. “And I’m of the opinion that five years ago, a lot of people chose not to make any decisions because they didn’t want to be out of a job.”

His company works with all four big manufacturers; GE, Philips, Siemens and Toshiba. “The market, the customers, the shared service providers, they’re the ones pushing the OEMs to mobilize their newer products,” says Bachman. This past summer, Advanced Mobility was the first to mobilize the Discovery IQ PET/CT for GE, a move that further suggests the domestic market may be easing out of hibernation.

Back in 2006, Bachman’s previous mobile medical company, AK Specialty Vehicles, was purchased by OshKosh Specialty Vehicles, a division of the OshKosh Corporation. In a move perhaps reflective of the industry at the time, OshKosh suspended their mobile medical production in 2012 to focus on a growing military market.

This year, Bachman’s Advanced Mobility was acquired by Kentucky Trailer, a move which may give them the balance sheet and financial backing to tap emerging global demand for mobile medical solutions. In return, they give Kentucky Trailer a unique mobile medical expertise.

Another manufacturer, Medical Coaches, is working with Siemens on the first mobile MCT, a scanner with TruePoint technology and high slice capabilities. Chad Smith, director of sales and marketing for Medical Coaches, has noticed the same trend in trailer manufacturing, including a recent uptick in mobile MR sales. “It is surprising because that market has slowed down for us in the last few years but just recently, we’ve received a number of orders,” says Smith. “I don’t know why that is, maybe they’re replacing existing technology or their fleet is aging out.”

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