The annual meeting of the RSNA, already one of the largest medical conferences in the world, stands to reach new proportions this year. Total registrations for the 2011 meeting in Chicago, Illinois, which starts November 27, are up 7% over 2010’s total.
The massive 459,000–square-foot convention space at McCormick Place expects to host 671 exhibits and close to 60,000 attendees. More than 1,800 scientific papers will be presented (along with 233 refresher courses) during the six-day event, making the 2011 RSNA meeting the premier conference worldwide in the field of medical imaging. Along with highlighting specific advances in 16 subspecialties, several common themes make the RSNA a unique place for receiving the latest cutting-edge research across the field.
The association received more than 12,474 abstracts and chose to accept 3,014 of them for formal and informal presentation. Many of the papers and educational sessions touch on radiation-dose reduction—a hot topic, this year, in the popular press (and a subject of deep concern among radiologists). Radiologists and radiology executives in a variety of practice settings also have several other challenges on their minds, heading into this year’s conference.
New ways to reduce exposure levels (while still getting high-quality images) are likely to receive considerable attention on the exhibit floor, according to Fergus Coakley, MD, vice chair of clinical services and chief of the abdominal-imaging section at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, California. He says that he will be looking for new innovations that vendors might provide to lower the risk to patients. “I know vendors are working on newer algorithms to get the same quality image with a lower dose,” Coakley says. “I’ll certainly be interested in seeing what’s available.”
Another hot topic for Coakley, this year, is MRI-focused high-intensity ultrasound, along with the promise that it might hold for prostate cancer, chronic lower-back pain, and essential tremor. “People are starting to push the envelope, and we’re seeing some new applications,” he says.
This Year’s Buyers
If the size of the conference reflects the ever-growing field of radiology, the RSNA meeting this year also demonstrates the changing landscape of buying decisions. With more freestanding imaging centers falling under hospital ownership, department heads such as Stephen George, MD, chair of the radiology department at North Suburban Medical Center in Thornton, Colorado, have different roles to play.
“There was a time where people in my position went to RSNA to look for equipment they might be interested in purchasing,” George says. “Now, with most of the big hospital systems, many of those decisions are made at a different level.”
George also is president of Diversified Radiology of Colorado in Lakewood, a 60-member radiology group serving 10 hospitals in and around Denver; he says that he attends the RSNA conference mainly for the educational benefits and to keep up with federal policy developments. As Congress debates another Medicare budget, radiology could, once again, end up on the chopping block. “The biggest thing we’re concerned about is the formula for the sustainable growth rate (SGR)—whether they are going to come up with a permanent fix for that, instead of dealing with it every year,” George says.
The final Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, issued November 1, included an across-the-board 27.4% physician pay cut to satisfy the SGR.
Continuum Health Partners, New York, New York, is a nonprofit system that includes St Luke’s Hospital, Roosevelt Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York Eye & Ear Infirmary, and outpatient centers. Marc Katz, corporate director of radiology for the system, says that he might be seeking new CT, MRI, and DR equipment, but with decreased reimbursements, any purchasing decision would be made cautiously. “There’s always a value in being ahead of the curve, but that comes with a double-edged sword, in terms of shrinking assets,” Katz says.
Katz adds that he’s looking forward to seeing the latest developments in high-tech equipment and advances in radiation-dose reduction, as are many others at this year’s conference. “It’s on everyone’s radar,” Katz says. “You need the right technology that provides the lowest dose possible. I think we’re going to hear a lot about that not only in the papers and the presentations, but certainly with the equipment manufacturers as well.”