In late 2015, the Medical Imaging Modernization Act of 2015 was announced to provide payment incentives to encourage image providers to transition from traditional X-ray imaging to digital radiography. As part of this legislation, reimbursement payments will be cut from 2017 for images produced with analogue film X-ray equipment by 20%. The cut in reimbursement for computed radiography (CR) equipment will be more gradual; from 2018 to 2022 there will be a 7% reduction in payments for images produced with CR equipment, increasing to a 10% reduction from 2023 onward.
The impact of digitalisation on the X-ray market is nothing new, with increasing levels of adoption of digital radiography equipment over the past 20 years. Such digital workflows allow faster acquisition of images and easier sharing and storage utilizing healthcare IT systems. Imaging through digital radiography has additional benefit over analogue imaging, including providing better image quality whilst using less radiation dose.
IHS expect that this legislation will not have a great impact on the analogue X-ray market. Sales of analogue X-ray systems have declined significantly in the US over recent years and this downward trajectory will continue.
While the CR market is also declining in the US, there is a much larger installed base of these systems than analogue X-ray. Growth in the CR market was driven by hospitals seeking affordable solutions to replace their existing analogue systems with some level of digital imaging. However, CR systems cannot match the workflow efficiency of digital radiography and this combined with the significant declines in average selling prices for digital systems has resulted in decline of the CR market in the US.
To avoid lower reimbursement payments, imaging providers using analogue or CR X-ray equipment will need to upgrade to digital radiography. Such facilities will have a choice between upgrading existing systems with digital retrofit kits or replacing existing systems with full digital installations. This decision will be based on two factors; the age and state of the existing equipment and the budget available.
This legislation change will provide the extra nudge for healthcare providers reluctant to transition to digital imaging to make the change. Digital imaging is not only beneficial to the patient as lower dose rates are required, but also provides cost saving benefits by supporting higher patient throughput.