This apparent decline in CT procedures over the past couple years may in part be due to the reimbursement policies of Medicare and third-party insurers.
Des Plaines, IL (PRWEB) January 16, 2014
The number of CT procedures being performed in the U.S. has declined at an average annual rate of 5.5% for the past two years, according to a new survey of CT sites performed by IMV Medical Information Division. The decline contrasts with the rapid growth in CT procedure volume over the previous decade.
“This -5.5% annual rate signifies a reversal in the average annual growth rate compared with the early 2000s, when CT growth was in the double digits, and compared with a +5.6% average annual growth rate from 2007 to 2011,” observed Lorna Young, senior director of market research at IMV. “This apparent decline in CT procedures over the past couple years may in part be due to the reimbursement policies of Medicare and third-party insurers, who have tightened their reimbursements for key CT studies.”
For example, the payment structure was changed over the past couple of years for combined studies for chest/abdomen/pelvis contiguous scans, which has resulted in these three study types declining in volume, as well as becoming a smaller percentage of the CT study mix. From 2007 to 2013, these three procedure categories have declined from 46% to 38% of total CT procedures performed.
The payment structure for head CT studies with and without contrast also has changed. These policies may have resulted in a reduced number of procedures per patient, even if patient volume is relatively strong.
CT department administrators are experiencing a number of pressures, including reduced reimbursements, requirements for prior authorization of imaging studies, maintenance of department accreditation, and the need to stay abreast of changes in federal and state healthcare reform that impact their operations.
Independent imaging centers, such as those owned by physician practices, are particularly hard hit, and they are especially concerned with managing their bottom line. Survey respondents from imaging centers are more likely than hospital respondents to feel that reductions in Medicare and third-party reimbursement are causing their CT revenue to decline in 2013. Consequently, although independent imaging centers comprise 32% of the CT sites, they comprise only 20% of the sites planning CT purchases.
Hospitals in the U.S. want to replace their steadily aging installed base of CT scanners, but many are holding off on new purchases. The resulting impact on future CT scanner purchases is that, although many of the imaging departments are poised to replace their older CT scanners, a majority of the imaging administrators are in a “watchful waiting” mode. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents agreed with the opinion question that “the impact of federal healthcare reform is so uncertain that our facility has slowed the rate of all capital equipment spending until we know what the outcome is.”
According to the IMV report, the proportion of sites that responded “yes” or “maybe” to planning to purchase CT scanners over the next three years has declined slightly from 55% to 51%, although those that are planning a purchase increased slightly from 25% to 28% of the CT sites.
Most of the purchase activity is driven by the need to replace CT scanners, with 84% of the purchases being planned as replacements. The reported average age of the CT scanners being replaced is 8.9 years. IMV observes that the peak years for CT installations were in the middle of the last decade, so with an average age of 8.9 years, these units are positioned for replacement.
CT scanners are still a workhorse modality for imaging departments, and CT administrators are seeking to deliver clinical excellence while improving productivity. IMV reports that the top three CT department priorities over the next year are to “satisfy the needs of referring physicians,” “improve capability to reduce radiation dose to patients,” and “improve CT department workflow and productivity,” with more than 85% of the respondents indicating that these are major focus areas.
These department priorities could in turn influence purchase criteria for future CT capabilities. Of those planning to purchase CT scanners during the next three years, more than two-thirds are planning to purchase CT scanners with 64 or more slices. The improved image quality, speed, and radiation dose reduction capabilities of these scanners are appealing to purchasers.
IMV's 2013 CT Market Outlook Report describes trends in CT procedure utilization, the CT installed base and purchase plans, power injectors, contrast media utilization, capital and consumable budgets, site operations characteristics, and respondent opinions about the factors affecting the future outlook for CT. In this report, IMV also provides market scenarios for CT unit purchases from 2013 through 2017. Vendors covered in this report include Bayer, Bracco, GE Healthcare, Hitachi Medical, Mallinckrodt, Medrad, Philips Healthcare, Siemens Healthcare, and Toshiba America Medical Systems.
The report is based on the responses from 424 CT administrators nationwide. Their responses have been projected to the universe of 8,510 short-term general hospitals and imaging centers in the United States that have fixed CT scanners, as identified by IMV. For more information about IMV’s report, visit the corporate website at http://www.imvinfo.com or call 847-297-1404 to speak with a representative.
IMV Medical Information Division is a marketing research and consulting firm founded in 1977, specializing in medical imaging and other advanced healthcare technology markets. IMV's market research services, in combination with its databases of U.S. imaging sites with selected modalities, provide clients valuable assistance in strategic planning, customer satisfaction, product development, and sales initiatives.