KLAS: New technology sparking interest in mobile x-ray upgrades

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The newest generation of mobile x-ray units is smaller, sleeker and more mobile than past generations, and the technology is increasing demand and mobile volumes in multiple areas of the hospital, according to a report from healthcare research firm KLAS.

Despite the smaller size, image quality from mobile x-ray units is still improving, driving volume increases in the emergency department, intensive care and operating room, according to the report titled “Mobile Digital X-ray 2012: Moving in the Right Direction.”

Key features for providers are mobility, image quality, wireless connectivity and battery life, according to report author Kirk Ising, strategic operations director for KLAS. He noted that wireless connectivity and battery life are the areas with the most room for improvement.

“Overall, technology and functionality are driving success and meeting providers’ expectations. However, there are still a few kinks to work out that currently are annoyances,” wrote Ising in the executive summary. “But those annoyances may become deal breakers if vendors take a long time to address them and they cost providers more from their budget.”

While hospital network infrastructure may be to blame for some of the connectivity woes, providers’ comments in the report indicate they’d like vendors to be more proactive in fixing wireless issues rather than delaying the process by placing blame solely on the hospital’s network.

Shimadzu, a vendor with extremely high scores overall, and Canon still have some connectivity issues to work out, according to KLAS. Fuji customers are happiest with their wireless connectivity, while GE received mixed reviews.

With regard to battery life issues, some providers complained of batteries dying within a year of purchasing the system. Most Fuji, Shimadzu and Canon customers reported the batteries met expectations, though a handful were not happy, citing limited battery life and charging problems, according to the report. GE earned the highest marks for battery life.

KLAS reported that overall performance of retrofitted mobile x-ray units is comparable to fully digital systems, making retrofit kits a viable option for providers looking to upgrade.

Findings for Carestream, Agfa and Philips also were included in the full report.