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Eying MR downtime and efficiency with remote monitoring

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | October 21, 2019
From the October 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Buying liquid helium 15 years ago for an MR magnet cost less than $5 a liter. Those days are long gone, with rising demand and the scarcity of the gas lifting the cost to anywhere between $15 and $30 a liter.

“Some of the party stores have actually quit selling helium balloons because of the price. That’s just balloon grade helium, the low end of the spectrum,” Mark Abbs, regional service manager of the west region for MXR Imaging, told HCB News. “Every high-field MR contains anywhere from 1500–2000 liters of liquid helium for the superconducting magnet to operate. If everything is not working properly to keep that helium in the magnet, it boils off and needs to be replaced.”

A number of issues can lead to helium boil-off, which, when left unchecked, can cause the magnet to quench. This, in turn, leads to costly repairs that can take weeks and delays in scheduled diagnostic scans for patients who may require immediate attention.

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To prevent this scenario, providers are investing more in remote monitoring technology so they can be alerted to and address issues early on. But choosing the correct technology requires not just an understanding of the capabilities it provides, but the risks it can detect and the impact it has on MR environments.

Patient throughput and total cost of ownership
Providers today face continual pressure to keep their systems up and running, to provide patients with fast, quality care. This has led to an increase in proactive measures and planning to detect and address problems that interfere with the availability of the system.

“They have to optimize their patient throughput and increase utilization of their diagnostic equipment throughout their facilities,” said Jessica Weems, MR product manager for the services business at Siemens Healthineers. “I think all of these different factors are what result in this increased need for them to really minimize the downtime of these systems and push a lot of maintenance activities to be more predictable and to be scheduled during off peak times.”

Behind that pressure is increasing emphasis on total cost of ownership. Unplanned downtime eats into exam schedules, leads to overtime and frustration among staff members, and prevents providers from generating revenue.

“Total cost of ownership grew in significance, and with that, the recognition and impact of remote monitoring on the bottom line,” said Andrea Hearn, senior manager of life cycle marketing for Canon Medical Systems USA. “And so did the benefits on the clinical area by being able to offer high-quality imaging on a continuous basis.”

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