Farm-to-table radiology

Reading the morning newspapers (yes, the kind that leave black ink on the hands), I was struck by the current parallels between the medical imaging industry and agriculture.  In his Ahead of the Tape column in the Wall Street Journal, Spencer Jakab writes about the struggles of agricultural heavy equipment manufacturer Deere & Co, which is feeling the effects of falling crop prices.

Anyone who has been in a grocery store (or hospital) recently understands that retail prices for food (and hospital-based imaging services) are not falling and in fact continue to rise. Jakab reports that farm incomes are expected to decline 21% in 2014, with a corresponding 6% increase in expenses.  This year, we published a figure in Radiology Business Journal that chronicled a 30% to 35% decline in global reimbursement over 10 years.

In a positive assessment of Deere’s ability to withstand its current difficulties, Jakab points to the cyclical nature of the agricultural-equipment marketplace and Deere’s efforts to adjust output and expenses to current demand. Likewise, radiology practices and departments have taken extreme measures to adjust output (upward) and contain costs, in turn putting pressure on equipment vendors, which have had to adjust output (downward) and costs (layoffs).

As we sit down to our Thanksgiving tables, there is much to be grateful for in radiology and medical imaging, beginning with a specialty that continues to evolve and with a purpose that is no less essential than the growing of and provision of food. Mere survival, however, will not suffice. If we are not growing, we are dying.

Let’s hope that the decade of punishing cuts is over, and that we will see evidence of innovation and growth on the exhibit floor at RSNA this year.  Happy Thanksgiving, and see you in Chicago!

Cheryl Proval