Editor's Note: Working Smarter

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It seems that the imaging and IT community was busy enough trying to improve workflow, increase efficiency, build referrals and fight for payments—then along came the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) and things got even worse.

That’s just what readers confirmed in this year’s Top Trends survey, our cover story this month. While workflow has been the top business priority for the last couple of years, increasing procedure volume and reimbursement now outrank it among the total survey group. But when broken down by facility type and size, increasing procedure volume is the top business priority in three categories (multi-hospital system/IDN, academic medical center and imaging center), while reimbursement is the No. 1 priority for hospitals 200-500 beds and less than 200 beds and in physician group practices. Workflow still ranks tops for hospitals with more than 500 beds. The data are compelling in this month’s Top Trends survey cover story, which reflects the opinions of 483 readers. (Thank you if you participated!)

As you’ll see in the cover story, facilities of all sizes are looking to increase procedure volume—and thus, business—by extending hours during the week and weekend, hiring technologists, acquiring digital mammography systems and providing remote image access to referring physicians.

In light of the DRA, a lot of eyes are focused on reimbursement. While 32 percent of respondents say they’ve seen no change in reimbursement post-DRA, 52 percent say they’ve seen decreases of less than 10 percent to more than 40 percent. So what are facilities doing to combat the effects of DRA? Some 38 percent of facilities are investing in technology to increase productivity. Another 23 percent are delaying technology purchases and 10 percent are freezing investment and expansion. But things are far from grim; overall 56 percent of the survey base predict a rise in their medical imaging equipment budget in 2008, while 60 percent expect to spend more on IT.

And what are they buying? Digital mammography (last year was its first time in the top 10) pushed aside CT for the top of the must-purchase list. But CT came in a close second (73 percent are buying 64-slice)—followed by MRI (49 percent are buying 1.5T and 37 percent want 3T), diagnostic workstations and ultrasound (3D, 4D, ob/gyn and portable systems are close contenders). In clinical IT, CVIS, voice recognition, RIS, cardiology PACS and advanced visualization are items respondents will buy this year. And topping health IT buying are workflow analysis tools, EMR, CPOE, EHR and PACS.

For a closer look at the Top Trends, check out our cover story—and for a deeper dive into the data, our online version contains an additional selection of charts for your review.