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.
This Premium Insight is the second in a two-part series assessing the impact and strategy of command centre solutions for the medical imaging sector.
The first part of this series, Establishing a Commanding Position, (available here) emphasised the strategic opportunity that command centre solutions presented large international medical imaging vendors for increasingly embedding themselves in hospitals’ imaging departments. Focusing solely on this opportunity for vendors however misses some of the key improvements to care that such tools can also offer.
One such opportunity is the provision of virtual acquisition support; this is one aspect of Philips’ Radiology Operations Command Center and the central focus of Siemens Healthineers’ offering, Virtual Cockpit. These solutions enable a senior physician or radiographer who isn’t in the same hospital as a patient or the modality, to guide the imaging procedure remotely. There are numerous situations under which such capability could be valuable. The provision of out of hours care, for example. If a patient requires complex emergency imaging in the middle of night, medical imaging could be conducted with junior staff on-site under the supervision of a senior specialist from another site, enabling scans to be taken more quickly than would have otherwise been possible. Similarly, remote acquisition support is also valuable for hospitals, especially in emerging markets, which are struggling as a result of the shortage of medical imaging staff. Enabling experienced staff to guide medical imaging procedures at other sites, even when there is a lack of senior personnel at those sites can help alleviate this pressure. Some discussions with these vendors have also pointed to taking this technology one-step further, with central “hubs” of vendor-managed experienced technicians providing imaging acquisition support.
While such capability is beneficial to providers, it will also help vendors make more hardware sales. After all, in some emerging markets, vendors’ opportunities to increase hardware sales, particularly of advanced modalities, are limited thanks to the shortage of professionals that can use them. Virtual acquisition support somewhat mitigates this issue, giving providers the ability to usefully purchase new systems. As such, virtual acquisition tools will invigorate hardware sales in emerging markets.
Beyond this effect, however, hospitals’ adoption of such tools will also have more nuanced impacts. The tools will, as detailed in part one of this series, continue to establish a vendor as a service provider rather than merely being a technology vendor. The changes in these relationships, along with the possibilities offered by the adoption of command centre solutions will lead to developments in the make-up of contracts that vendors and providers enter into.
Chief among these changes will be a gradual uptake of risk-sharing (or benefit or upside-sharing for those particularly PR-conscious vendors) contracts. The detailed analytics of a hospital’s imaging department made possible by the adoption of command centre solutions means that key performance metrics can be better assessed, and imaging departments’ performances can be better quantified. This will enable risk-sharing contracts, under which providers can contractually guarantee the advantages vendors promise.
Learning to Share
The transition to these contracts will not be immediate, with both practical and cultural issues to be solved. Vendors, for instance, will need to be sure that the benefits or challenges a provider is experiencing are because of their intervention. This will be made easier as vendors supply ever-greater portions of a provider’s medical imaging capability. One vendor, after all, would not wish to be penalised because of reliability or other performance related issues of modalities purchased from a competitor. Such nuances will require a degree of consultation and negotiation to be satisfactorily addressed, but over time, as command centres are able to better quantify utilisation and efficiency, they will be.
Other issues are less quantifiable. Providers will no doubt pleased at the prospect at paying significantly less for an imaging service which doesn’t live up to expectations. However, convincing those same providers to pay more to vendors from savings made from use of new technology and operational service support, will be less easy. Given these challenges, vendors should not, at least in the near term, consider such deals big revenue making opportunities.
Instead, they will frequently represent a more protectionist impulse, enabling vendors to become further entrenched at providers and in a better position longer term to upsell additional tools and services. Alternatively, a more aggressive use of such an approach, particularly with a vendor neutral command centre solution, would see a vendor looking to displace an incumbent by offering contractual guarantees that it can offer savings. Not only would this help the challenging vendor get a foot in the door at a provider and promote its services and equipment from within, but more significantly it would give it insight into a rival’s operations and performance. Such data would stand it in good stead to displace its competitor the next time the provider is due to renew its imaging deals.
There are many different forms these efficiency gains and operational opportunities could be implemented, among the most eagerly expected is the use of predictive analytics.
At present command centre solutions are primarily tasked with collecting, collating and presenting data. This allows professionals, both within a department and external consultants offered as part of managed service deals, clear operational oversight of a hospital’s imaging department. In doing so these professionals can assess hardware utilisation and identify opportunities to improve a department’s efficiency.
Over time vendors plan to increasingly utilise command centres to not only quantify past data and present current metrics, but also identify patterns in the data to be able to make predictions about future use. In doing so, such tools could offer providers suggestions to improve the efficiency of their departments. These could relate to hardware, highlighting opportunities for providers to share equipment among departments, ensuring that a system in one department doesn’t sit idle while another system is at capacity elsewhere. Another potential use case is better managing staffing levels, to ensure that the right professionals, with the right skills, are available and active at the right times.
Adoption will be tempered by scepticism that predictive analytics offers the value it promises. However, this will change. Vendors will use historic data to show where their tools could have been advantageous in the past and providers will become more open to trying innovative approaches as staffing shortages become more acute. Additionally, predictive analytics will also no doubt be a recommendation made by consultants that have been embedded as part of professional services agreements.
Making Plans for the Future
Ultimately, many of these capabilities and trends, whether virtual acquisition support, better analytics support or the increasing integration of vendors within providers’ departments, were already burgeoning, however, command centres neatly bring them together. These solutions are therefore unlikely themselves to be a significant commercial driver. However, the dealmaking opportunities and upsell potential they facilitate can be significant as large medical imaging vendors look to their next stages of growth. They represent the opportunity for a rethinking of contracting, the chance to tap into service budgets and a way of increasing hardware sales in stubborn markets. Moreover, the “ripple effect” of these deals on the competition will become more apparent, pressurising imaging modality vendors with no advanced operational analytics or command centre capabilities. When considering the recent bullish market entry of United Imaging and growing traction in Imaging IT of enterprise imaging specialists such as Sectra and Visage, command centres offer a chance for major healthcare tech vendors to fight back.
GE Healthcare, Siemens Healthineers and Philips did not achieve their global leadership positions by resting on their laurels, and as competitors gain ground they have got to once again strike out, differentiating themselves from their challengers. Considered as such, command centres represent a mission statement as much as a technology.
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