Providers are paying less for digital X-ray equipment as they turn to basic systems that lack additional detectors and advanced features.
The average price of the equipment between September and November 2015 was $194,223, down 19% from August through October of that same year, according to the most recent Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index. The TPI provides monthly and annual data about pricing of 30 supply and capital items that hospitals and other provider organizations purchase, based on three-month rolling averages.
X-ray systems can range widely in cost because manufacturers offer a very wide variety of configurations, said Kevin Lee, senior analyst for ECRI's SELECTplus procurement advisory service. Digital radiography systems, the formal name for modern X-ray machines, cost $75,000 to $500,000 in 2015. The most expensive systems are often fully automated with multiple detectors.
Detectors, which capture the X-ray image, are the single most expensive component of an X-ray machine, said Jason Launders, director of operations for ECRI's health devices group. Fewer providers appear to be opting for machines with multiple detectors, and therefore that has driven the average price down.
Advanced functions can also drive up price, like systems that are able to perform automated long bone studies, which are essentially a panorama photo of a bone. They can help providers measure distances and angles in a bone that is larger than the X-ray detector, Launders said. Some providers are also embracing dual-energy imaging, in which a system will use an algorithm to parse out two different images that help the radiologist discern bone from tissue. The feature can help find lesions hidden behind a rib, for example.
Standard radiographic exams account for 70% of all studies because they're performed in so many different cases. Hospitals need multiple machines to keep up with demand, but they don't need sophisticated features for the majority of cases.
“You need the systems, and you need them to be efficient and reliable, but you don't need the high-end features on every system,” Launders said.
The market for digital radiography systems is crowded. The major manufacturers of X-ray systems include major medical imaging manufacturers like General Electric Co., Royal Philips, Siemens, Toshiba Corp., but also CareStream Health, Del Medical, Fujifilm Holdings Corp. and the Agfa-Gevaert Group.