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Survey: Mixed picture on capital budgets for radiation therapy

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | March 11, 2012
Radiation therapy providers are going digital, capital equipment budgets have a mixed outlook, CT dominates treatment planning and the number of patients undergoing radiation therapy has remained pretty stable, according to a new market report.

A new IMV Medical Information report, announced Thursday, examined buying and practice habits for U.S. radiation oncology providers.

According to a teaser for the 180-page report, radiation oncologists are relying more and more on electronic medical records, with adoption possibly spurred by the government's EMR incentive program, which was first created by legislation passed in 2009.

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The report said nearly two-thirds of radiation oncology departments have EMRs or EMR-enabled oncology information systems, up from only half in 2007. Nearly 80 percent of planned OIS purchases and upgrades will incorporate EMR data, IMV said.

The outlook for capital equipment budgets is also, as expected, quite mixed. According to the report, for 2012, many departments are starting to recover from recession-wracked 2009. IMV said nearly a quarter of radiation oncology sites have capital equipment budgets of $1.5 million or more, up from a mere 16 percent in 2010. However, many more sites also have "zero budgets," with the non-spending sites growing from about one-third in 2010 to 40 percent in 2012, according to the report.

The zero-budgeters were more likely to be non-hospital sites, while 200-399 bed hospitals were the most likely to have capital budgets of $1.5 million or more, an IMV executive told DOTmed News by email.

Still, one-third of sites say they're planning to buy external-beam radiation therapy units over the next three years, including linear accelerators, Accuray's CyberKnife and TomoTherapy technology, and Elekta's GammaKnife. IMV told DOTmed News that 76 percent of potential buyers were interested in dual-energy systems.

Holding steady

Overall, the numbers of patients undergoing radiation therapy are stable, at around 924,000 in 2010, the report teaser said, although the proportion of patients treated for breast cancer has grown. When it comes to planning treatment, CT is the favorite modality, by huge margins. About 98 percent of treatment plans use CT, according to Lorna Young, a senior director of market research with IMV. MR and PET scans are each used in 12 percent of plans, she said.

The 2011 Radiation Therapy Market Summary Report relies on the group's census database. According to information on IMV's website, 664 sites responded to the report.

IMV is based in Des Plaines, Ill.

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