Imaging Technology: Utilization and Service

Introduction: Imaging providers—now, more than ever—need to operate their technology resources as efficiently as possible. To achieve maximum efficiency, the imaging devices must be properly maintained, or providers run the risk of equipment failure. If efficiency is defined as the number of units (procedures) produced in a standard day (10 hours), then three key elements drive efficiency: technology availability (uptime), speed (time needed to produce a single unit), and staff productivity. These three elements are the foundation of throughput. The previous edition of Imaging Market File presented 2011 equipment-inventory data collected by the AHRA in 2012 using the AHRAdatalynx tool. This edition looks at CT and MRI equipment-utilization percentages and service costs.

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Figure 1. MRI utilization percentage by system age (years).

Equipment utilization: A primary indicator of a technology’s operational efficiency is how consistently the imaging equipment is used, relative to its total capacity. Equipment capacity is defined as procedures performed divided by the total available time slots (based on the hours of operation of the equipment). CMS defines 100% utilization as equipment operating for 50 hours per week, 52 weeks per year; even though many devices in hospitals and in outpatient facilities operate during extended hours, Regents applied the CMS standard for this analysis of the AHRAdatalynx database. These data come from more than 200 CT and MRI units, in both hospital and outpatient settings, across the country.

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Figure 2. CT utilization percentage by system age (years).

Multiple factors (including equipment capabilities, staffing, and workflow) affect the time that it takes to perform MRI or CT exams. We used an average time per study based on Regents’ national client experience of 45 minutes per MRI exam and 20 minutes per CT exam to arrive at the capacity percentages outlined here (Figures 1 and 2). The CT and MRI units were grouped in five or six age categories, respectively, for this analysis. Equipment service: Service for 62% of the MRI systems installed was provided under OEM contracts, while 16% of service was under warranty (Figure 3). This does not necessarily translate into a 78% MRI service share for OEMs because (in a strong preowned-equipment market) the warranty is not always owned by the OEM. A warranty might be provided by a third-party service company as part of a used-equipment sale.

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Figure 3. Service providers for CT (left) and MRI systems.

CT service follows a similar pattern, with 67% of systems under OEM service contracts and 12% under warranty. Some of the equipment shows a lower-than-average service cost that might reflect an in-house program or a time-and-materials strategy.