The average price providers paid for CT scanners was up 34% in the three months ended in April compared with the same period the year before, driven by an increased interest in more advanced systems, according to the latest Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index.
Between February and April, a CT system cost an average of $1.1 million, according to the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index (TPI). 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.
The expensive 128-slice and premium scanners accounted for more than 50% of interest in all CT systems, with the average cost of a 128-slice scanner reported at $1 million and a premium scanner selling for an average of $1.7 million during the three-month period, according to ECRI. A 64-slice scanner, the next step down, cost significantly less, averaging $600,000.
Higher “slice” scanners offer more detail in their images, but that's usually because they have better software, not necessarily more sophisticated hardware, said Jason Launders, director of operations for ECRI's health devices group. Premium scanners offer wider detectors that can capture larger images of the body in each rotation of the scanner than less-sophisticated machines can.
Last year around the same time, the average price of CT scanners was down 20.9% as hospitals replaced lower-end scanners that couldn't be made compliant with the XR-29 radiation-dose safeguard standard set by the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance in 2010. Many of those replacements likely came because, as of this year, Medicare offers lower reimbursement for procedures performed on scanners that fail to meet the standard.
Launders said it's possible that, now that providers have completed replacements of their lower-end machines, they're shifting toward premium scanners for which they may have saved funds. Premium scanners offer quicker scans and many have scanning functions specifically designed for diagnosis of strokes or heart attacks.
CT scanners were the sixth-most-expensive capital item on the TPI during the three-month period. General Electric Co., Hitachi, Philips, Siemens and Toshiba Corp. are the major players in the CT market.