Editor's Note: The Pulse of the Industry

When it comes to setting priorities, operations are topping the list in hospitals and imaging centers. The data are compelling in this month’s Top Trends survey cover story, which reflects the opinions of more than 425 readers. (Thank you if you completed our survey; we appreciate your input.)

As you’ll see in the story, improving workflow is this year’s top trend (as it was last year too), followed a close second by improving procedure volume. Adding and improving department information systems, data storage, and data networks, as well as adding and improving access to images—and integrating images into PACS—across the facility and enterprise also are high on the minds of radiology and hospital administrators and physicians. About 65 percent of respondents said they are adding a new PACS, while 35 percent are replacing an existing system.

How are facilities improving workflow? Boosting scheduling and registration is the first priority, while the focus next shifts to improving technologist productivity, physician productivity, and better billing processes. To increase procedure volume, hospitals and imaging centers are adding technology, increasing their referral base, adding a new clinical service line, extending hours, and adding staff (technologists, IT staff, and physicians, in that order). Of the departments getting new information systems, radiology is tops, as well as implementing an enterprise strategy, and then back to the department in cardiology, emergency, surgery, and pathology.

Hospitals and imaging centers are largely making all this happen thanks to increases in 2007 IT budgets at the majority of facilities (28 percent will see a budget increase of 20 percent or more), with 17 percent predicting a 10 percent jump. About a quarter of respondents predict no change to their 2007 IT budget, while only 10 percent expect a budget decrease. The same holds true for the imaging devices budget for 2007—almost a third of our survey base predict no change, while a quarter will see a jump of 20 percent or more. Some 15 percent expect a budget decrease.

CT continues its reign as the No. 1 technology priority, followed by investments in ultrasound, digital mammography (the first time in the top 10), MRI, CR, DR, PET (sold in combination with CT 95 percent of the time), and CAD (for mammography, breast MRI, and lung). And why do people choose a particular system? Product reliability tops the list, followed by cost and value, integration with IT systems, serviceability, and upgradeability.

For a closer look at the industry’s Top Trends, check out our cover story—the online edition contains an additional selection of charts that drill down further into the data by topic.