The average price providers paid for digital mammography systems was up 22% between February and April, compared with the same period last year, fueled by increasing interest in 3-D systems, according to the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index.
Digital mammography systems commanded an average price of $385,095 during that three-month period, according to the newest index data. The Technology Price Index provides monthly and annual data on the pricing of 30 supply and capital items that hospitals and other provider organizations purchase, based on three-month rolling averages.
Digital mammography, which has largely replaced film mammography, is classified by 2-D and 3-D imaging, the latter of which is also known as tomosynthesis. Interest in relatively new and more expensive 3D technology has skewed the average price of digital mammography devices, which cost between $200,000 to $500,000, according to ECRI.
The 3-D systems, which tend to be more accurate, cost an average of $430,000, while the 2-D systems cost roughly 30% less. Hospitals are under pressure from consumers to adopt the 3-D systems because research has shown that 2-D machines can miss signs of cancer or require additional screenings, which can cost patients money, said Jason Launders, director of operations for ECRI's health devices group.
Companies like Bedford, Mass.-based Hologic advertise almost directly to consumers, who can choose where they go for diagnostic work in a competitive service area. But most insurers offer the same reimbursement whether a mammography device is 2-D or 3-D, so healthcare providers who have a choice might choose a 2-D system and get paid for repeat visits, Launders said.
“3-D actually works against the health providers,” Launders said. “Healthcare providers want those recalls because they can really start charging for their services.”
About half of the providers in the survey who were interested in new 3-D machines had fewer than 300 beds. Providers have recently begun pushing insurers to increase reimbursement for 3-D screenings, not only to cover the cost of the expensive machine but a lack of revenue from recall appointments. In general, reimbursement barely covers the costs of mammography exams, Launders said.
General Electric Co., Hologic and Siemens are the major manufacturers of mammography systems. Manufacturers are often reluctant to expand into the product category because of the extensive pre-market approval process required by the Food and Drug Administration, said Mani Adib, a senior projects officer at the ECRI Institute.
Although they provide more data, 3-D machines often expose patients to more radiation. But Adib said the major manufacturers each offer different tomosynthesis technologies that allow them to obtain highly accurate data while limiting dosage.