By Adam Fairbourn, Vizient Director, Contract Services
Mahogany Laur, Vizient Category Manager
Ashley Mayzner, Vizient Senior Category Manager
For more than 100 years, diagnostic imaging professionals from around the globe have reserved the week following Thanksgiving to attend the world's largest medical imaging convention in Chicago hosted by the Radiologic Society of North America. Vizient's diagnostic imaging team participates in this longstanding tradition each year to search out the latest and greatest medical imaging has to offer. Upon returning from the most recent RSNA meeting, the team compiled the top technologies, trends and themes exhibited at McCormick Place.
Top trends: Asset management, workforce optimization and detector technology
As capital budgets become more constrained and reimbursements shrink, the total cost of ownership for capital equipment grows more important. One trend that we saw with many manufacturers is total cost of ownership and capital asset management solutions. These offerings can help customers track equipment utilization and forecast planning for new purchases, equipment and departmental capacity.
Another key trend is workforce optimization. There is a continued shortage of workers in the healthcare field, which means radiology staff are relying on new solutions that offer automated reformatting of images and fewer clicks to complete an exam. Remote scanning capabilities allow radiologists or senior technologists to oversee exams in real-time, which assists facilities in staffing overnight or weekend shifts. This technology also helps newer technologists in the field who are not as well-versed in more complex exams.
The last trend that we noted at RSNA is a change in detector technologies. A new technology that was released in 2021 is a photon-counting computed tomography scan, and this year, Siemens showcased the system with clinical data to demonstrate better image quality, lower-dose scanning and improved workflows. More suppliers also are offering spectral CT systems, and new imaging detectors such as Cadmium Zinc Telluride are being used in molecular imaging. CZT detectors scan patients in 3D to provide more information to clinicians, and they also are optimized for theranostic procedures that combine the delivery of therapy to patients with diagnosis to monitor disease.
Top technology: Glassless detectors, small footprint MR, theranostics
Visitors attend RSNA for hands-on experience with radiology's most cutting-edge technology. Although they are not new to the market, glassless detectors continue to be touted as one of the top technologies in the world of diagnostic imaging. The growing popularity of polymer constructed detectors provides professionals the opportunity to enjoy equipment with lighter weight and increased durability at a more affordable price point.
Another trend showcased is more accessible MRI systems with a smaller footprint suitable for a wider range of facilities. Siemens displayed technology that makes it possible for clinicians to obtain quality images while improving the patient experience for morbidly obese and claustrophobic patients. The scanner's smaller footprint is attributed to its less than 80 inches in height, a weight of less than 3.5 tons and a helium independent infrastructure. The compact size of such technology creates opportunities to utilize MRI in settings where not previously possible.
Life-changing advances in theranostics are beginning to impact patients with prostate cancer in a positive way. GE, for instance, showcased technology with higher sensitivity and resolution that makes it easier to detect diagnostic tracers that attach to cancer cells within a patient. Monitoring treatment has become easier with 3D CT scans that provide more information for clinicians. Theranostics is projected to grow by 10.4% annually for the next five years due in part to these emerging technologies.
Top themes: Artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-enabled solutions and health equity
Throughout all the technology and trends showcased at RSNA, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-enabled solutions and health equity were common threads in the exhibitions.
AI continues to be top of mind for providers, suppliers and regulatory agencies as a disruptive technology to solve for workforce shortages, increased patient loads and clinician burnout. As demand for diagnostic imaging grows, AI solutions are becoming more accessible, easier to manage and more commonplace in provider workflows.
While AI tools require active adoption for use, many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have embedded AI tools that automatically adjust image quality and triage high-risk findings at the patient's bedside. Non-embedded AI solutions have also increased in adoption rate and acceptance from providers and regulatory agencies like the Center for Medicare Services (CMS). AI adoption in diagnostic imaging is bolstered by cloud-based computing and CMS rulings to reimburse for the use of some AI software tools.
The benefits of cloud-based solutions were evident as a driver for many of the technologic advances showcased at RSNA. Despite some early resistance from healthcare providers to utilize cloud-based solutions, a necessary shift towards acceptance of off-premise storage is in progress. Adoption of cloud-based solutions is key to tackle today's challenges in diagnostic imaging as many AI tools and clinical enterprise rely on cloud computing to operate in an optimal state. Because local or on-premise servers are limited in functions, cloud-based solutions allow for broader retrieval and sharing of clinical data that can be used for comparison, guidance and clinical collaboration.
With radiology servicing almost all other clinical specialties, diagnostic imaging is often at the forefront of provider health equity initiatives. In recognition of the importance of equity and access to quality diagnostic imaging, many OEMs showcased product designs that help solve some of the challenges related to health equity. Equipment that accommodates larger body habitus, mobile imaging equipment to expand geographical access, and smaller economic equipment that is more attainable for providers in underserved populations were just a few examples of the technology that OEMs are bringing to market. Equitable equipment designs coupled with more diverse data feeds is a promising new frontier for the role of imaging in population health improvement.
The many trends, technologies and themes from RSNA highlighted the future of diagnostic imaging — and what has already gained some pretty impactful footing. It's a perfect roadmap for providers to consider as they journey through 2023. Until next year!
About the authors
Adam Fairbourn leads Vizient’s diagnostic imaging portfolio under the capital equipment solutions domain and facilitates Vizient’s Diagnostic Imaging Contracting Council. Fairbourn — who joined Vizient in 2018 to manage a portfolio of diagnostic imaging product and service categories — previously worked at UT Southwestern Medical Center, serving as lead molecular imaging technologist. His background is in clinical imaging, research imaging projects and operational management. Fairbourn earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Bachelor of Science degree in nuclear medicine technology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
Mahogany Laur is a category manager on Vizient’s diagnostic imaging team under the capital sub-domain. She works closely with industry and hospital members in the general radiology, ultrasound and dosimetry space. Laur — who joined Vizient in October 2022 to manage a portfolio of diagnostic imaging products — previously worked for Baylor Scott & White Health as CT technologist, administering quality care to a diverse patient population. With more than 20 years of experience in imaging, she has a background in management, radiation safety regulations, coronary CT angiography and quality improvement. Laur earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls..
Ashley Mayzner is a senior category manager on Vizient’s diagnostic imaging team under the capital equipment solutions domain. She works closely with advanced imaging suppliers in the categories of MRI, molecular imaging, CT and clinical informatics. Mayzner — who joined Vizient in March 2020 to manage the diagnostic imaging portfolio — previously worked for Baylor University Medical Center, providing patient care as a CT technologist. She has an imaging background, with 10 years as a technologist and two years in management for an outpatient imaging center. Mayzner earned a Bachelor of Science in radiologic sciences from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls..