The average price providers paid for CT scanners was down 20.9% in the first quarter of the year, driven by an increased interest in lower-end scanners, according to the latest Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index.
The average price paid for CT scanners between January and March was $732,275, the most recent Technology Price Index data showed. The TPI provides monthly and annual data on pricing for 30 supply and capital items that hospitals and other provider organizations purchase, based on three-month rolling averages.
CT scanners were the sixth-most expensive capital item purchased by ECRI members in March, trailing fairly far behind angiography systems, which cost an average of $1.1 million in the first quarter, and ahead of CT radiotherapy simulation systems, which cost an average of $550,930. Computed tomography overall did not make the list of the top 10 most frequently purchased capital items.
CT scanners tend to cost between $300,000 and $2 million, depending on their technological sophistication, according to Kevin Lee, senior analyst for ECRI's SELECTplus procurement advisory service. Their average price is being driven down because more buyers are interested in less-costly 16-channel and 20- to 64-channel scanners, likely among hospitals looking to replace those lower-end systems.
Lee added that older, lower-end CT systems often don't comply with the XR-29 radiation-dose safeguard set in 2010 by the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, a trade and lobby group representing radiology equipment manufacturers. Hospitals may be trading in their outdated devices because, as of next year, Medicare will pay less for procedures performed with scanners that fail to meet the XR-29 standard.
Most newer models can be upgraded onsite to comply with the XR-29 safeguard, if they're not already in line with the standard, said Jason Launders, director of operations for ECRI's health devices group.
General Electric Co., Hitachi, Philips, Siemens and Toshiba Corp. are the major players in the CT market. Those vendors did introduce new premium scanners last year, but that doesn't affect the latest TPI data, Launders said. Lower-end scanners are adequate for most diagnostic procedures, and therefore, more prevalent in hospitals.
“The new technology is a whole lot more than what most people need for routine studies,” Launders said. “A lot of new machines do cardiac scanning really well, but most hospitals don't need that. Most are just bread and butter, and that's where the 16-slice scanners are more than enough.”