From the April 2022 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Camille Allred
Technology advancements in angiography have been limited over the past two years as the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospital budgets becomes increasingly apparent.
Budgets in March 2020 were diverted to acquire necessary personal protective equipment instead of purchasing new or replacement equipment. Delays in replacing equipment and installing new labs have rebounded over the past 12 months, though still not to pre-pandemic levels. We are beginning to see hospitals plan for new installations, with interest in angiography being focused primarily on upgrades, updates, and the replacement of equipment when it is no longer functional.
Hospitals appear to be considering longer extensions of existing service agreements or are interested in shared-services agreements, where in-house biomedical engineers are the first-line service specialists. While shared-services agreements theoretically benefit cost savings, they create a requirement to maintain a department of qualified engineers to work on specific equipment. Many of these agreements require specialized training of these employees at an additional cost outside the agreement. End-of-service agreements carry their own challenges. Once the unit is deemed past end of service, parts acquisition is not guaranteed.
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Office-based labs remain a strong competitor to hospital-based labs. These outpatient facilities have flourished during the pandemic as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, along with commercial payers, become increasingly invested in limiting costs. These payers prefer outpatient-based facilities because reimbursement rates are significantly lower than hospital-based imaging. Physicians have found additional benefits to practicing outside the hospital setting, experiencing fewer restrictions, more control of their schedules, and greater autonomy in their practices. Most major equipment manufacturers offer economical options to accommodate this growing market.
Over the past 12 months, there was a noticeable increase in quote volume among biplane solutions. This may be attributable to advances in interventional oncology and neurologic procedures. These imaging and interventional areas benefit from the ability to simultaneously image two planes with one dose of contrast. Philips currently holds the most interest for the biplane market segment with its Azurion 7 biplane solution with various detector options. These systems represent a total of 9% of all angiography quotes seen over the past 12 months, and 46% of all biplane quotes. Some 65% of these configurations were specific to neurologic imaging. As additional hospitals pursue certification as stroke centers of excellence from The Joint Commission, we may continue to see increasing interest in biplane systems. Hospitals with smaller equipment budgets may struggle to validate the higher purchase and service costs of this equipment and may not be well equipped to recruit staff and physicians capable of performing these procedures, which are typically highly specialized.