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RSNA Anticipation—Just Like Christmas?

November 23, 2010
by Joe Marion
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With so much emphasis on EHR/EMRs, how does the imaging industry cope?

Waiting for the RSNA is like waiting for presents under the tree. In just four short days, the doors will open on RSNA 2010 and the present will be unwrapped! Besides sore feet, hunger, and fatigue, what else am I anticipating relative to this year’s exhibits? For starters, this will be the first RSNA post-ObamaCare legislation. How will participants and vendors react to the impending tidal wave of change coming for the industry? With so much emphasis on EHR/EMR’s, how does the imaging industry cope?

Prediction #1: Linking to Healthcare Reform

I anticipate that virtually every key imaging exhibitor will have a message with respect to how their products can enhance Meaningful Use and EHR/EMR’s. If you’re going to be a surfer, you’ve got to ride the wave! I’m not exactly sure what the messages will be, but I am sure that the topic will receive more emphasis than in past years. The fact that imaging is relegated to the tail end of Meaningful Use would seem to imply that it is premature to tout the linkage. But the vendors certainly have to “make lemonade out of lemons” and I expect them to try to ride on its coattails in terms of generating investment opportunities.

Prediction #2: There will be more iPad demonstrations per square foot than anywhere else on the planet!

On the market less than a year, the iPad seems to have taken the medical market by storm. I am still wrestling with where the “pad” product category has any advantage over existing alternatives at both ends of the spectrum, namely the smartphone and the tablet computer. That being said, for simple access to diagnostic results, the iPad has the form factor, battery life, and a cost advantage over more expensive full-scale PC devices like the tablet PC, and less expensive smartphone devices.

Connectivity may be the greatest unknown. The big draw would be the potential use of wireless carrier’s networks for image delivery, but bandwidth and cost remain key issues. In other words, are there sufficient wide-scale applications to warrant the wireless contract cost? Reliance on Wi-Fi may improve the cost effectiveness of such devices, but it would limit connectivity, thereby negating some of the advantage of such devices.

It may also be premature to see the impact of competing “pad” devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy, or devices coming from Research In Motion (Blackberry) or HP. 2011 may be a better gauge of the real impact of these devices.

Prediction #3: It will be cloudy, and I’m not talking about the weather!

Chicago can be a dreary place in late November, overcast, damp/wet, and chilly. Aside from the weather, one bright spot inside McCormick Place will be the emphasis on image storage and sharing alternatives. There will be plenty of effort to tie image storage “clouds” to EHR/EMR and Meaningful Use. It may be difficult for the imaging equipment vendors to accept the premise of 3rd party providers handling image storage and access, as this has been their exclusive domain for years. On the other hand, the prospect of enterprise-scale image handling and accessibility plays right into the Meaningful Use strategy by creating better disaster recovery/business continuity models for EHR/EMR integration.

From an IT perspective, it would behoove healthcare providers to be positioned to address imaging in anticipation of Meaningful Use, and I am sure that the purveyors of storage technology will play this up.

Prediction #4: Advanced Image Visualization will become more mainstream

Last year saw the introduction and expansion of client-server advanced visualization applications and services, as well as enhancements to visualization processing to make them less expensive and more automated and intuitive. A prime example of this was Siemens’ syngo Via application, which touted advanced workflow to simplify image processing, thereby automating the process and reducing the need for expensive post-processing labs.

That trend should continue, with more examples this year – again aimed at expanding imaging utilization, and simplifying its inclusion in the EHR/EMR. The ability to more efficiently portray advanced visualization may be valuable to promoting advanced imaging technologies in a more cost-constrained environment. For example, the ability to perform an advanced visualization of a cerebral aneurysm may ultimately reduce the number of exams required for diagnosis, while improving the likelihood of a positive treatment outcome.

It’s an exciting time of the year! It’s the Macy’s Parade of imaging technology – all under one roof! I’m anxious to see what pops up as the latest batch of show-stoppers. There has been more hype this year than I can remember in several years, and perhaps it has something to do with people’s crystal balls getting slightly clearer as to the future of medical imaging.

Enjoy Thanksgiving, and I anxiously await blogging on the status of my predictions next week!

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