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Special report: The CT market rebounds after a slump

by Carol Ko, Staff Writer | September 05, 2013
From the September 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Eliminating or at least greatly mitigating the concerns around dose will go a long way towards making CT an even more appealing modality for wider indications, experts say. “If CT can get much closer to mammography dose, then CT has the ability to bring all the clinical value at an acceptable level of dose — a huge leap forward,” says Smith.

End of slice wars
In years past, manufacturers fought for CT market share by upping the number of slices on their machines. Slice wars propelled the industry at one point, spurring surges in sales with each new release. But this one-upmanship has largely become a thing of the past as the appetite for new scanners diminished. Since the height of the $1.7 billion market for new CT units in 2006, sales have plunged by more than half.

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There’s a bell curve in today’s CT market – high-end systems comprise one end and low six to16 slice systems comprise the other end. When customers are looking to buy new equipment, they usually decide on something that falls in the middle, according to experts. “You can still probably find many single slice scanners out there in small hospitals, but when it comes to scanners that are being sold today, majority of them fall under the 64 slice category,” says Mochon.

Though customers have in the past have erred on the side of more gadgets and slices, , times have changed. “Customers are more educated about what they need and more cautious now,” says Mochon. In keeping with this budget-conscious trend, Siemens offers their customers the option of upgrading to a higher slice machine down the road if they initially buy a low-slice scanner. “In this reality where budgets are not getting higher, customers appreciate this approach,” he says.

When it comes to head, chest and abdomen scans, which drive the bulk of CT imaging procedure volumes, a low-slice scanner can handily do the job. “Really, any of the scanners can handle this basic bread and butter imaging,” explains Mochon.

In short, the CT market and its manufacturers have long since evolved past thinking in terms of slice count, focusing instead on technology and image enhancements that maximize each slice. “We haven’t been focused on the number of slices, it’s been more around better slices and better information from those slices,” says Stahre.

Lung power
In late July this year, the industry was abuzz with excitement as the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommended annual CT scans for high-risk smokers and former smokers. If CMS follows up with Medicare reimbursement approval for the screening as experts predict, this will have an enormous impact on the CT market, since providers would be able to tap into the Medicare reimbursements offered for the 9 million Americans who qualify.

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