Hospitals are holding back on purchases of a wide range of radiology equipment, from X-ray systems to magnetic resonance imaging.
Imaging equipment at U.S. hospitals is, on average, older this year than last in every category, according to a new report from Comdisco Medical Equipment Group. The company, a division of Rosemont, Ill.-based Comdisco, leases and remarkets diagnostic imaging equipment.
"It's no surprise that high-tech equipment acquisitions are down again in 1994," said Kenneth Halverson, its president. "Market-driven reform, hospital network formations and managed care are continuing to have a dramatic impact on both large and small hospitals."
Comdisco's fourth annual report on equipment acquisition is based on a survey of more than half the nation's hospitals on the age and number of diagnostic imaging units in their facilities. Questions covered seven imaging technologies: angiography, cardiac catheterization, computed tomography, magnetic resonance, nuclear medicine, radiography/fluoroscopy and ultrasound.
In 1993, hospitals-caught up in the healthcare reform debate-delayed purchases of diagnostic imaging equipment. The only exceptions were equipment used in heart and vascular diseases (Nov. 29, 1993, p. 42).
This year, cardiac catheterization and angiography joined other imaging modalities in their sales slumps.
Cardiac catheterization laboratories in U.S. hospitals are now, on average, 5.6 years old, up from 5 years in 1993. About 68% of the equipment is more than 3 years old, compared with 48% last year. Nearly 30% of the equipment is more than 7 years old, compared with 18% last year.
The average age of angiography suites, meanwhile, climbed to 7.2 years from 6.3 years. More than 78% of the equipment is now more than 3 years old, up from 58% in 1993. The share of equipment older than 7 years soared to 48% from 32%.
The average age of radiography and fluoroscopy equipment-always the least likely target for new expenditures-rose significantly, too. It's up to 9.6 years from 7.5 years in 1993.
"Hospitals that used to acquire high-tech equipment to compete with the providers in their area may now suddenly find themselves as part of the same healthcare system," Mr. Halverson said. "Most systems have not yet addressed how to strategically redeploy those assets across multiple providers."
One measure of how much work lies ahead is the wide variation in radiology costs, he said.
Generally, radiology represents 3% to 8% of total operating expenses for U.S. hospitals. Many hospitals, however, are spending as much as 12% of their operating budgets on radiology.