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Faster technology, stricter regulations are taking CT to the next level

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | September 23, 2016
From the September 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Mildenberger says that if a hospital’s Medicare outpatient business doesn’t make up a significant amount of the payor mix, then it might not make sense to upgrade, from a financial perspective. Most Siemens customers have invested in its Evolve program, which updates the hardware and software during the life of the scanner. The company upgraded those CTs to make them compliant with the requirements. But for the older CT technology, some of the features are not available. Those facilities have the option to acquire software solutions from a third-party company, but Siemens doesn’t recommend it.

“It remains unclear about how they interact with the OEM software,” says Schmalzing. “Some third-party solutions only can achieve a portion of the four XR-29 requirements.” For GE Healthcare’s CT installed base, 75 percent of the systems were brought into compliance with the XR-29 standards with a free software update. The remaining 25 percent of the systems were not able to be upgraded because they were on average over 12 years old.

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“If budgets/capital expense plans permit, replacement is the preferred option, as it offers additional clinical, operational and financial benefits over these older CT systems,” says Scott Merriman, region product marketing manager at GE. “However, we realize capital budgets are often limited, so we have developed different financing (lease/loan) packages to provide options to address this need.” If replacement is not an option, Merriman cautions that it’s important for the facility to only consider purchasing an FDA-cleared, third-party solution, as well as the workflow, administrative and service implications associated with the solution.

Most facilities have chosen to retrofit their scanners, but there were quite a few that did make new purchases, says Cris Bennett, clinical analyst at MD Buyline. “A lot of hospitals saw it as a way to buy a new system,” he adds. “That way they can make that capital purchase to help out their bottom line with a faster scanner and [also] be compliant to get their reimbursement rate.” In addition, there is some compelling functionality on newer CT scanners that might actually improve the hospital’s business, says Mildenberger. “Systems are much faster and workflow often is more flexible, so there are definite efficiencies to be realized,” he adds.

Monitoring radiation dose
In January 2015, The Joint Commission started requiring facilities to focus on monitoring and reducing radiation dose. WellStar Health System in Georgia took that seriously. “The most important reason to do it is patient care,” says Kelly Golkin, medical imaging CT clinical specialist at WellStar. “In addition, it allows you to identify the areas that may benefit from process reform.” WellStar performs over 175,000 CT exams per year and Golkin has to review them once a month. A dose report for one of the 16 locations could be over 1,500 pages.

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