This Insight is part of your subscription to Signify Premium Insights – Medical Imaging. This content is only available to individuals with an active account for this paid-for service and is the copyright of Signify Research. Content cannot be shared or distributed to non-subscribers or other third parties without express written consent from Signify Research. To view other recent Premium Insights that are part of the service please click here.
As vendors, providers, radiologists and investors are preparing to travel to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, these are Signify Premium Insights’ expectations for the key modality trends on display at the show.
Subdued Show for Major Modality Vendors
The 2022 edition of the Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America was supposed to be a bumper event for major international modality vendors. After the implosion caused by Covid-19 in 2020 and the ongoing disruption and travel restrictions leading to a more muted show in 2021, this year, when providers have an urgent need for solutions that can help them deal with the unprecedented backlog of patients awaiting care looked ripe to feature many major launches.
However, there are some signs that this expectation may not be realised. Across the modalities, many vendors chose to release new products at ECR, with the July date providing a good launchpad, enabling the vendor to utilise RSNA to showcase the systems in the US and look to secure sales of the new products. What’s more after several years of disrupted shows where vendors may have had an online-only, or no presence at all, vendors may also be questioning whether major shows are the most cost-effective vehicle to launch new hardware.
This is particularly true at present, when a number of vendors are distracted, or otherwise unable to lavish attention on RSNA. Carestream Health, which often has a particularly strong presence at RSNA, for example went into bankruptcy earlier this year. GE HealthCare, another RSNA stalwart is readying itself to demerge from its parent company in January and so is likely to be focusing on priorities beyond the event, while other vendors such as Philips, are facing tough times amidst a change in leadership and the recently announced layoff of 4,000 employees. Such turbulence at these and other vendors is not conducive to a showstopping conference presence.
Focus on Clinical Workflows
While vendors will look to demonstrate new hardware, this will increasingly be done as vendors highlight their integration into clinical workflows.
Providers are stretched as a backlog of patients whose elective procedures were delayed during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic are now awaiting treatment. In addition, in many markets there is a lack of fully trained and experienced staff. These challenges are exacerbated by providers’ understandable desire for the improved image quality and clinical precision that comes with advanced modalities such as MRI and CT, but also require longer to complete and are relatively resource intensive.
At RSNA vendors will show providers their workflow tools for dealing with these delays. There may be less actual hardware on the show floor, and instead vendors will offer digital demonstrations of hardware being used as part of clinical workflows, alongside, for example, AI-powered scheduling solutions to maximise the efficiency of the use of hardware and improve patient throughput.
Such tools will allow imaging protocols to be set automatically, saving time in radiology departments, while other solutions which focus on automatic patient positioning and automatic imaging acceptance and rejection will further expedite the process and help minimise the requirement for imaging to be redone at a later date. Further, these workflow tools will also look to increasingly target specific clinical tasks, with common or particularly high value imaging exams, such as stroke imaging, liver analysis or breast imaging, having targeted solutions to enable providers to conduct them more efficiently and effectively.
Vendors Promoting TCO and Sustainability
Not only will such tools allow providers to attend to patients more efficiently, but by allowing them to maximise the use of their hardware, their imaging systems will, in effect offer an improved return on investment.
This return on investment offered by medical imaging modalities will be another focus of RSNA, with vendors looking to show the total cost of ownership of their modalities alongside their features and capabilities. Vendors will, for example, be keen to highlight that lower-tier, performance or workhorse systems will still be able to benefit from the latest developments and features from a software side, enabling providers to take advantage of new workflow and efficiency features without being forced to upgrade to brand new systems.
Providers will look to hold discussions with vendors about smart subscriptions and other elements of managed service deals. Such agreements will ensure that hospitals not only receive the medical imaging systems that they require, but hospitals will have much better foresight over the costs of these systems over their lifespan, being able to better account for advantages offered by software upgrades and additional tools, while limiting the amount of downtime providers will be forced to endure.
Another element of this equation which will currently be a priority for providers is energy efficiency. With stretched budgets and elevated energy costs, a medical imaging system’s energy efficiency will be a consideration for prospective customers, vendors will, therefore be looking highlight any strength, or mitigate any weakness, they have in this regard.
Vendors Will be Focused on Advanced Imaging Systems
Although there is opportunity for differentiation among all product categories, the range of developments in both hardware and software among advanced imaging systems mean that such categories will continue to be the primary focus of vendors.
Medical imaging system manufactures will be keen to highlight how they are incorporating and deploying the latest technical innovations such as photon counting CT, spectral CT, and cold-cathode emission technology, for example. Beyond this, these modalities, which require significant expertise and resource, also offer vendors opportunities to sell workflow and productivity tools.
Another facet of vendors’ focus on advanced modalities is that they will be keen to share clinical studies which demonstrate the benefits of their newest technology. Vendors which are looking to promote and normalise these technologies will utilise real world results to show how new technologies can have a material benefit in a range of specific clinical use cases. Vendors will, in essence, look to highlight how technology can be applied, more so than discussing the technology itself.
Developments in Digitalisation
While there are still opportunities to continue to develop medical imaging hardware, for many modalities, in many tiers, greater differentiation between vendors can be seen through the software that is offered.
There are many avenues that this drive to digitisation can take. One of the clearest on display at RSNA is likely to be in facilitating less experienced users’ adoption of modalities. While some vendors have already invested significant effort into such programmes, with Philips Collaboration Live, for example, helping less experienced sonographers conduct ultrasound exams. Such tools, at present, will be attractive, helping stretched providers conduct examinations more efficiently, while also mitigating the lack of experienced staff, a barrier which can make selling additional systems more difficult.
There are also other reasons why vendors will be particularly keen to push digital tools at RSNA. Particularly in more economically turbulent times, relying solely on continued equipment sales is something of a risk and is likely to limit opportunities. An alternative is to instead capitalise on existing installed bases and derive more recurring revenue from them from the sale of digital tools, whether on the diagnostic side or on more of the administrative side.
There is always considerable excitement surrounding RSNA, and this year, with Covid travel restrictions easing, hospitals facing a slew of new challenges, and greater economic and inflationary uncertainty, is no exception. The specifics on display in Chicago remain to be seen, but, for modality vendors at least, the emphasis across the board will be on helping providers face these challenges, with the application of technology in a clinical setting, the tune to which all vendors will march.
About Signify Premium Insights
This Insight is part of your subscription to Signify Premium Insights – Medical Imaging. This content is only available to individuals with an active account for this paid-for service and is the copyright of Signify Research. Content cannot be shared or distributed to non-subscribers or other third parties without express written consent from Signify Research. To view other recent Premium Insights that are part of the service please click here