May 2007

Digital Imaging on a High After Spurt in Demand

Views: 199

The use of digital imaging by healthcare organizations provides advantages over the use of other imaging techniques. Though the initial cost of investing in digital imaging systems might be higher, it provides cost savings over a longer period of time. The savings include the purchase of film and chemical as well as the processing costs, which are not incurred with the use of digital images.

In the last four decades, digital imaging has become the base for most radiological diagnoses. The big strides in computer based imaging techniques in the last twenty years is aided by the introduction of modalities such as Computed Tomography Imaging (CT Scan), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), digital angiography, ultrasound and nuclear medicine imaging.

Digital images are represented by large rectangular grids comprising of individual pixels or picture elements, each with its own bit-depth value that informs the computer, which color the pixel, should it display. The digital image thus created is the culmination of all the pixels.

The issues arising from the storage and retrieval of digital images in hospitals led to the development of the Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) and Radiological Information Systems (RIS), where the images are stored in computed formatted memory discs that can be viewed from computer screens across a hospital or local area network. This transfer of digital images across a network is made possible by a standard called by DICOM or Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine. The  standard allows imaging systems to connect a central storage or health information system in a consistent manner.

Benefits galore

The use of digital imaging by healthcare organizations provides advantages over the use of other imaging techniques. Though the initial cost of investing in digital imaging systems might be higher, it provides cost savings over a longer period of time. The savings include the purchase of film and chemical as well as the processing costs, which are not incurred with the use of digital images.

In terms of the usage of space also, they score. Digital images take up less storage space than less conventional photography, and are easier and less time consuming to sort out and retrieve for viewing. Digital images also tend to last longer as they do not degrade or lose colour over a period of time.

Agfa HealthCare

Agfa HealthCare (www.agfa.com) is a member of the Agfa-Gevaert Group, which is a leading provider of IT enabled clinical workflow and diagnostic image management solutions, and state-of-the-art systems for capturing, processing and printing images in hospitals and healthcare facilities.The group is quite strong in the development of e-health solutions, including Electronic Patient Record technologies, for governments and regions. Agfa HealthCare today operates in 100 markets worldwide.

Agfa HealthCare is committed to helping customers implement solutions that enable them to become more efficient, leading to enhanced patient care and better utilization of resources. With more than 700 PACS or Picture Archiving Communication Systems, (PACS) installed worldwide, Agfa has demonstrated its ability to help customers move from film to digital based imaging. Agfa HealthCare, according to observers, offers one of the most comprehensive image and information solutions on the market today, providing customers with solutions to seamlessly and smoothly manage patient data, from initial creation to final archiving.

Imaging systems developed and implemented by Agfa HealthCare capture, process, and print diagnostic images from a multitude of sources within and beyond the healthcare enterprise.  These systems are designed to bring vital information to medical practitioners regardless of their location.  BRIT Systems, Canon Medical Systems, DR Systems, Eastman Kodak, Fuji film Medical Systems, General Healthcare,IBM, IMCO Technologies, Philips Medical Systems, StorCOMM Inc, Intelerad Medical Systems, McKesson's Medical Imaging Group, Philips Medical Systems, Siemens Medical Solutions are other important players in this domain.

Rising Demand

Cardiology equipments account for 20 per cent of total market; followed by imaging systems, which constitutes about 15 per cent of the total market. The demand for medical imaging products in the US market will go up 6 percent annually to touch $21.4 billion in 2010, says a study published by The Freedonia Group. The main causes of the rise are technological advances, along with an ageing population and changing trends in healthcare approaches. New scanners and consumables with expanded testing capabilities are also being adopted widely by hospitals and outpatient facilities to improve quality of care.

Medical imaging equipment will post demand of over $16 billion in 2010, which is 6.8 percent higher than the annual growth happened two years ago. Picking up the biggest pace will be multi-slice CT scanners, due to investment in the systems by hospitals and outpatient facilities replacing older systems. It is estimated that high field machines will account for the largest share of new MRI installations through 2010 and the coming years. Due  to the popularity of new hybrid PET/CT systems, these systems offer dual anatomical and metabolic scanning capabilities.

Other drivers of the demand include the ongoing replacement of conventional analog machines with digital x-ray and radiographic fluoroscopy systems . Faring better will be nuclear medicine and ultrasound equipments. New four-dimensional (4D) imaging systems and new laptop and hand-held devices for point-of-care systems will also abet the overall growth for diagnostic ultrasound equipment.

Worldwide, medical imaging consumables will expand 3.6 percent annually to $5.3 billion in 2010. Finally, the market for contrast agents will see moderate growth in x-ray, CT and MRI studies on body regions where the targeted organ or tissue needs visual enhancement due to its masking by nearby invivo matter. In this product group, nanosized compounds hold the best growth prospects as they are expected to greatly improve MRI-generated images.

The growing awareness about cardiovascular disorders (CVD) is leading to a rise in the number of diagnostic procedures, resulting in a spurt in interventional cardiac catheterization procedures.

A growing focus on efficient and non-invasive techniques of diagnostic cardiology such as computed tomography angiography (CTA) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) also augments the use of cardiovascular X-rays in catheterization procedures.

Accordingly, revenues in the European cardiac catheterisation imaging systems market alone are expected to reach $196.6 million by 2009 from an estimated $144.1 million in 2004. The single plane cardiovascular imaging systems is expected to dominate the overall market. At the same time, the biplane systems segment is also likely to boost market revenues.

Despite the decline in prices, cardiac catheterisation imaging systems still remain highly priced gadgets to many healthcare institutions and imaging centres. Ensuring compatibility of cardiac imaging equipments with existing IT solutions in hospitals will also prove vital in easy integration. Sustaining product demand will depend on evolving a digital workflow to optimise the cardiology data management system (CDMS).

Refurbished imaging equipments

A report by Frost & Sullivan research offers a comprehensive analysis of the European markets for refurbished medical imaging equipment, segmenting it into cardiovascular X-ray, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

It is estimated that high field machines will account for the largest share of new MRI installations through 2010 and the coming years.

The increase in medical procedures in Europe has stimulated demand for greater number of imaging equipment in hospitals. Many institutions which require a second or third equipment to cope with the increasing demand opt for low-cost refurbished equipment as they are unable to invest in new equipment due to limited funds.

The escalating need to procure high-end but inexpensive medical imaging equipments promises further growth of refurbished medical imaging equipment market, notes the analyst of this research.

The prevailing healthcare systems in Europe, especially the public hospitals, are equipped with excellent medical facilities due to constant investment of government bodies in technologically upgraded products. Public health care institutions sell off older systems to vendors to create room for more efficient and technologically advanced equipment. The local vendors and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) refurbish these old, well-maintained systems and sell them to private health care institutions. As this trend continues, the European market for refurbished medical imaging equipment is poised to grow.

The reinvigorated market for medical imaging systems employing x-rays is   being propelled by the explosion of digital technology. The expanding role of imaging modalities in a whole host of clinical applications from trauma to cancer to cardiology has increased the profile of radiography while enabling computer technologies to expand the usefulness of traditional x-ray techniques. This obviously augurs well for all players in digital imaging.  

Comments

comments

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest News

To Top