06/15/2004 • Medical tech

Outsourced Diagnostic Imaging Solutions

Developments in medicine over recent years have meant that hospitals in Europe must increasingly rely on state-of-the-art technologies. Patients have come to expect the best, not only in terms of a fast diagnosis, but also in the use of the most up-to-date technologies.
Dr Arpan K. Banerjee, MBBS FRCP FRCR, Consultant Radiologist in the UK at the Birmingham Heartlands and Solihull Hospitals NHS Trust, explains the benefits that outsourcing radiological requirements can bring to public and private healthcare providers.

The UK “outsourced imaging” model

According to a recent study by a European management consultancy team, Britain is the global leader when it comes to getting the best from "outsourcing", i.e. using the private sector to deliver public services. In the UK, the Government’s commitment to providing greater access and choice for patients, combined with a willingness to develop plurality of providers, irrespective of their public or private status, has lead to the widespread recognition of the benefits outsourcing can bring to both patient and healthcare institutions alike.

Privately managed imaging facilities

The provision of privately managed, fixed-site radiology facilities for the National Health Service (NHS) is nothing new. Already 25 years ago, privately operated MRI facilities were being developed as an extension of NHS facilities, allowing the general public to access up-to-date MRI technologies that would otherwise only have been available on a fee-for-service basis. The only problem was that patients often had to travel extensively to access the technology. This is where the development of mobile CT and MRI services has provided patients and the NHS with a mutually beneficial solution. Patients are no longer required to travel, and the NHS is able to strike a balance between demand and available funding when purchasing imaging facilities. Outsourcing radiology to the private sector removes the risks of equipment proving more expensive than planned and of equipment not being installed on time. Mobile units offer a flexible solution. If they are not sufficiently utilised, they are simply removed. If they cannot meet the demand, they are easily upgraded, without the considerable overhead cost to the hospital. Operating with the knowledge that a contract can be terminated at any stage privately provided radiological services must constantly prove their worth.

Mobile Imaging

In the UK today, many hospitals are turning to mobile imaging solutions. In turn, mobile imaging is becoming ever more flexible and comprehensive.

Indeed, the development of increasingly sophisticated mobile units and cross-sectional technologies (CT, MRI, PET and PET/CT) offers a very wide choice of imaging systems, all of which can be tailored to the individual hospital’s clinical needs and budget. Such services are especially important when hospitals are upgrading existing systems or installing new ones, testing potential systems to help make a purchase decision or when they are involved in special projects.

The use of a mobile interim service ensures that hospitals can respond quickly to developing situations in an economical manner, with units being used only for the required amount of time. Furthermore, as hospitals can use their own staff in the units, they can be sure of maximum continuity of systems, with minimum impact on budgets.

Where imaging demand does not justify a new system installation, or where imaging demand is permanently high, fully managed mobile services with highly trained radiographers, either as a one-off solution or a long-term aid, can also be provided.

Imaging centres

Carefully located fixed-site diagnostic imaging centres are a natural extension for providers of mobile diagnostic systems, and a valuable alternative for hospitals everywhere. They offer technically advanced modalities, such as PET/CT, specialist cardiac MRI, 16-slice CT systems and digital X-Ray, and are operated by highly professional teams to ensure quality of reporting, immediate appointments and rapid results.

Conclusions

Whether fixed-site or mobile, fully managed or operated by existing hospital staff, outsourced imaging provides hospitals with a solution tailored to their needs. With the expansion of the EU, hospitals in new EU-member states will soon be able to open their doors to the technologies and services that are becoming central to healthcare in Western Europe.
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