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● RIS/PACs/Imaging

Healthcare reform not slowing scandemic innovations

Progressive momentum continues despite anticipated provider budget, reimbursement cuts. By Rick Dana Barlow


ack in the mid-to-late 1990s, diagnostic im- aging equipment and technology companies largely circled their semi-trailers and vans as they anticipated the aftershocks of healthcare

reform under the Clinton administration. As you roamed the expansive exhibit halls of the Ra- diological Society of North America’s annual scientific assembly during those turbulent years, you noticed that bread-and-butter imaging and information technology ca- pabilities largely overshadowed traditional expectations of innovative bells and whistles. The prevailing undercurrent at that time was to avoid showcasing anything healthcare organizations couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to pay for, courtesy of looming budget restrictions and reimburse- ment cutbacks. While you may debate the motivation and logic of manufacturers of diagnostic imaging modalities and IT support products demonstrating product development restraint during such provider fiscal duress, they did not throw up a white flag in an industry fearing red. Instead, these companies innovated more creatively against the backdrop of forced economic conservatism. Modularity and modest upgrades to existing technology seemed to dominate the showscape. Cash-strapped and regulatory-weary providers could install new “modality- agnostic” and “vendor-neutral” capability extensions and software packages to weather the storm. Now, nearly two decades later, the healthcare industry may be farther along in the fiscal and operational throes of yet another healthcare reform initiative under the Obama Administration, but the manufacturers of diagnostic im- aging and IT equipment and products are not nearly as cautious this time around. Attribute that in part to the frenetic pace of innova- tions once the last decade of the 20th century faded into history. Since then, the technological innovations that

8 November 2013

have emerged have been nothing short of staggering with an emphasis on convergence, flexibility, miniaturization, modularity, multi-functionality, portability and above all, ease of use and simplicity. We’ve witnessed multi-slice computed tomography

(CT) machines where slices surpassed double digits even as upper double-digit slices became the norm for high- end, high-definition heart scanning; extremity and open bore magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units; digital radiography and computer-aided detection (CAD) and measurement; mobile X-ray devices and modular/portable X-ray rooms; hand-held and wireless ultrasound devices; ra- diology information systems (RIS) integrated with picture archiving and communications systems (PACS); positron emission tomography linked with CT; ultrasound fused with CT, MR and PET; the emergence of image-guided and adaptive radiotherapy, molecular imaging, elastography, tomosynthesis and proton beam imaging; two-, three- and four-dimensional imaging perspectives; smart phones and tablet computers being used as imaging vehicles; CT and X-ray radiation dose reduction systems, “real-time” imaging and even nanoparticle/nanotechnology capabilities. Most recently, we’ve seen the debut of more quietly running MRIs, long known for their operational noise. Of course, with the plethora and immensely expanded

volume of collected data and images comes the need for more and wider bandwidth for electronic transmission and larger storage and archiving caches. So what could be next and in the pipeline? That’s

what Health Management Technology wanted to learn in advance of the 99th RSNA conference and exhibition at the beginning of next month. We asked key executives at some of the leading diagnostic imaging and RIS/PACS companies to share their insights about ongoing techno- logical advancements and what they might be showcasing shortly. Here’s what they had to say.


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