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por Sean Ruck , Contributing Editor
From the June 2018 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

For years, the healthcare industry has lamented the state of reimbursements. The volume of the voices raised in displeasure has only grown as reimbursements have declined. So it’s easy to imagine the love/hate relationship many hospitals have with their rad/fluoro rooms.

On one side, it’s important for a number of procedures. On the other side, it’s a technology providing a procedure that might not even break even against the total cost of ownership. According to David Hurlock, sales manager for the Americas at Varex Imaging, the systems aren’t necessarily that expensive, but low reimbursement for procedures and the possibility of the system only being used a few hours a day, makes a return on investment a slow process – if possible at all.

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And there’s a few risks for hospitals rolling the dice and sticking with a system that’s in decline. To start with, there’s an argument to be made for being in control of your downtime. By addressing the issue before a breakdown, the downtime can be scheduled to minimize interruptions. Second, the software that many of the older systems run on is no longer supported, meaning no new patches, which can lead to potential issues with data security. And finally, “for systems that are quite long in the tooth, image quality degrades. That can result in a higher dose to the patient in order to get the needed and expected image quality,” said Hurlock.

For many older systems, tubes are no longer being manufactured and warehouse stockpiles are depleted. And as Hurlock pointed out, “they’re vacuum tubes, so eventually they’re going to go out. If you can’t get a replacement camera tube, you have a system that would otherwise be working, but instead is useless.” So what’s a hospital to do?

There are three possible responses: replace, decommission or upgrade.

Since we’re exploring cost containment and the anemic reimbursement has already been mentioned, replacement isn’t the option we’re going to focus on. Also addressed was the fact that r/f is useful for a number of procedures, so decommissioning isn’t a valid answer for most facilities either. That leaves upgrading. And for that conversation, we turned to Robin West, CEO and George Jachode, head design engineer, both with Premier Medical Imaging Medical Systems Inc.

According to the two, Premier has created r/f upgrade solutions for GE Legacy systems and GE systems that were manufactured earlier than the Legacy. Introduced last year, the upgrade addresses all the major concerns of the continued use of an older system. The upgrade can be a planned event, meaning scheduling can be adjusted to create little to no downtime. The upgrade can be a relatively quick turnaround too. “It takes a month to get the system ready, delivered and installed,” said West.
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