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X-ray rising... innovation has outpaced adoption rate

November 24, 2016
Martin Silverman
From the November 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Martin Silverman

For years, within the X-ray community, the rate of technological innovation has outpaced the actual adoption rate for that new technology. While many health care providers have purchased new X-ray systems in recent years, a surprising number retain legacy systems that are 10, or even 15, years old.

Why has X-ray’s rate of technological adoption not kept pace with, for example, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)? Largely because many providers have regarded it as a “necessary evil” — as little more than a commodity. But that outdated notion is giving way to a new realization.

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Health care professionals perform upward of 70 percent of all imaging using some form of X-ray technology. That figure suggests a high number of touch-points between patient and system during the continuum of care. And since patient satisfaction is now a major factor in determining a provider’s total reimbursement, this stalwart technology can substantially impact a facility’s bottom line, as health care and the reimbursement environment evolve.

Similar to the way in which the 2014 passage of the XR-29 dose optimization legislation has reduced reimbursement for facilities using older CT systems, X-ray reimbursement is now — thanks to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 — tied to clinical standards. Those standards take the form of Medicare payment incentives for transitioning from traditional film and cassette-based computed radiography (CR) to digital radiography (DR).

The financial impact of these changes, coupled with the clinical and operational benefits of today’s X-ray technology over the equipment’s useful life, highlight the need for dramatic change in the X-ray community’s rate of technological adoption. Rather than “buy on the cheap” as they may have done when they viewed X-ray as a commodity, providers will need to “purchase smarter” when considering new X-ray systems. Only then will they ensure greater investment protection in an ever-changing health care environment.

We’ve already seen ways in which technological innovation has revolutionized X-ray. For example, where CR once held sway, DR is now ascendant — for both fixed rooms and mobile radiography systems. The reasons are clear: DR offers superior image impression compared to film and up to 50 percent in patient dose reduction compared to CR. Consider also how dynamic flat panel (or digital) detectors have replaced image intensifiers in fluoroscopy systems. A similar transition is underway within the mobile C-arm segment, bringing the promise of improved image resolution and up to four times less dose. This technological shift represents a coming of age within X-ray.

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