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State of confusion: The imaging market in 2021

February 15, 2021
Health IT
From the January/February 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

One of the positives to come out of the C-19 event is the growth of teleheath. There have always been radiologists reading from home remotely, as well as the use of teleradiology from various companies. Since March, though, the number of radiologists reading from home has pretty much exploded, creating almost a mini cottage industry. This has caused a number of interesting discussions both within groups and between groups and hospital administration. Hospital administration likes radiologists to have the one-on-one interaction between themselves and the primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists that you see in a hospital setting. While face-to-face discussions do reinforce the personal relationships, the number of these are becoming more and more limited due to time constraints. In addition, image sharing and other new technologies allow radiologists and clinicians to interact in real time so nothing is really lost besides a longer interruption for both parties. Still many administrators prefer the radiologist on-site, plus, they are needed for interventional procedures as well.

The use of the cloud has increased as well, provided IT (information technology) is behind the decision to use it. There are pros and cons of a cloud-based system but the pros seem to outweigh the cons, especially in light of the fact that the IT departments are being pared down. This impacts the support of all clinical systems including imaging systems. The benefits of the cloud are many, but it does require a very robust wide area network (WAN). The system also needs to be designed so that it can work independently of the cloud for a period of time in the event there is a network disruption.

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There have also been new tools developed that can improve workflow and the diagnostic interpretation process. Many of these are vendor specific and come at a price that needs to be well justified, but they are of interest to many.

One tool that I have seen recently not only automates the measurement process, but cuts the time to measure masses by at least half. It is also much more accurate and consistent than manual measurements. It also has a bunch of other features as well, including color enhancement. Best of all, it shows an ROI in under six months, which is crucial for market acceptance.

So, what’s next for medical imaging? We need to get over the C-19 nightmare first. So many facilities have put holds on purchases, closed down sites temporarily that weren’t generating enough revenue to keep them open (mammography taking the biggest hit), and trying to recoup some of the losses they have submitted for treating C-19 patients these past several months. If the vaccine works as we hope it will, we may get back to some semblance of normalcy by year’s end, hopefully sooner. This will not be what we all have been calling the “new normal” — that is about as far from normal as it gets — but instead, a return to a time where patient care is paramount and making a profit returns as well.

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