Top Trends in Health Imaging & IT: Topping the Competition

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Revenue, Referrals, Ingenuity


While the U.S. and world economies have us distracted, concerned and pensive these days, the business priorities of healthcare imaging and IT leaders in 2008 are clear—patients, efficiency and building revenue are top of mind. The Top 5 business priorities this year are patient satisfaction, improving productivity and workflow, improving patient care, dealing with decreases in reimbursement and creating new revenue sources, according to the 661 respondents of this year’s Top Trends survey, our 5th annual dive into the market complexion. In addition to business priorities, this year we’re taking a closer look at healthcare facilities’ needs in IT infrastructure, clinical IT and clinical imaging systems. Topping the buying list for 2008 are data storage, radiology information systems, ultrasound units and speech recognition software. Facilities tell us the best strategy for increasing revenue is buying new technology to differentiate and attract new business, doing more marketing and adding new service lines. To meet our many requests for a peer-to-peer view on trends, we’ve also sliced the data based on facility types—such as community hospitals, academic medical centers, multi-hospital groups/IDNs and imaging centers. See how you compare—and how you can top the competition.

There is good news when it comes to healthcare facility revenue. Despite the uncertainty and flux of the U.S. economy, most healthcare facilities tell us their revenues are up from last year (46 percent) or flat (31 percent). Only 23 percent are reporting a dip in revenues. Typical revenue growth is ranging from 5 to 10 percent (44 percent), to less than 5 percent (29 percent). About 15 percent are seeing growth in the range of 10 to 15 percent. So why are revenues increasing? Facilities are buying new technology to attract new business, doing more marketing and adding new service lines.

For facilities seeing a revenue decline, the dips are small, for the most part. Decreases are most often in the 5 to 10 percent range (43 percent), followed by a decrease of less than 5 percent (21 percent), decrease of 10 to 15 percent (16 percent) and 15 to 20 percent (11 percent). To offset the declines, facilities tell us they are delaying technology purchases (13 percent), holding off filling vacant positions (12 percent), reducing staff (11 percent), trying to work more efficiently by investing in technology designed to increase productivity and efficiency (9 percent) and freezing investment and expansion (7 percent).

The fiercest competition is coming from freestanding imaging centers (46 percent), local general hospitals (35 percent), physician group practices (30 percent) and specialty hospitals (11 percent).

In all, 661 respondents participated in the Top Trends in Health Imaging & IT survey between July 17 and August 25, 2008. Participation also was solicited by the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators (AHRA) of its members. All data were submitted online and analyzed by Health Imaging & IT. Respondents most often came from the U.S. (91 percent), while 9 percent are based elsewhere.

Budget watch: IT Infrastructure

IT budgets are solid, with 60 percent of healthcare facility executives and leaders showing increases in IT infrastructure spending in 2008. Most often, the increase is 5 to 10 percent (16 percent), 11 to 15 percent (12 percent) or 15 percent to 20 percent (8 percent). About 31 percent of the survey base is spending the same on IT as last year. Only 9 percent are experiencing any budget decrease, with 6 percent saying it is less than 15 percent.

Why are facilities increasing IT investment? A need to upgrade IT infrastructure tops the investment list, followed by increasing data storage, overall need for IT systems and technology, the additional of new clinical service lines and new facilities and the need to update and renovate existing facilities. Decreases in IT budgets are most often happening in facilities seeing overall budget decreases.

Budget watch: Clinical IT Systems

Healthcare facilities need new systems and upgrades to boost their clinical IT capabilities, with budgets on the rise, according to 54 percent of respondents. Typical budget increases are most often 5 to 10 percent (13 percent), less than 5 percent (10 percent), 10 to 15 percent (9 percent) and 15 to 20 percent (8 percent). About 41 percent of survey respondents have the same to spend as last year, again showing that IT is a much-needed