As healthcare becomes a global business, laboratory vendors from overseas are casting an envious eye on the market in the United States. After all, it is the world’s biggest and richest healthcare market, with more than $2 trillion in spending. Better yet, because healthcare in this country is organized around multiple payers and private providers, it provides competitive opportunities that don’t exist in many countries with single-payer health systems. (more…)
Siemens AG has introduced a PDA-sized portable ultrasound machine dubbed the P10 that allows emergency room doctors to assess patients quickly and easily. Devices like the P10 are possible largely because analog chip makers are racing to develop electronics that allow portability. Like cell phones before them, these portable ultrasound machines will become increasingly smaller, faster, and cheaper over time. They will also consume far less power than their full-sized counterparts.
Technology advances like these will also trigger new, smaller analyzers for in vitro diagnostics. The explosive growth in this market is demonstrated by a simple fact: semiconductor sales associated with medical equipment totaled $3.02 billion in 2007, up 65% from 5 years ago! Sales of portable systems-those weighing less than 11 lbs-climbed 42% to $565 million last year and are forecasted to reach $1.2 billion in 5 years, according to Klein Biomedical Consultants, Inc., General Electric Co’s GE Healthcare, SonoSite Inc., and Zonare Medical Systems, Inc. together accounted for 85% of the market in 2007.
These portable devices are expected to make ultrasound, which has traditionally been limited to radiologists, cardiologists, obstetricians, and gynecologists, available to new classes of specialists, including anesthesiologists and emergency care physicians. The expanded use of ultrasound could help cut healthcare costs through earlier and more accurate diagnoses.
Technology incorporated in the P10 and other portable ultrasound devices does need improvement. For example, the P10 currently does no show color, so doctors won’t see some problems. Its battery life is limited to four hours of normal use. Refinements to improve image quality and reduce power usage in the pipeline and will soon reach clinical use.
The refinement of computing chips for use in portable ultrasound devices is of note to laboratory staff because this technology has easy applications in creating more and better portable laboratory testing devices. That will expand the types of near patient and point-of-care (POC) testing systems available for diagnostic purposes. It will also enable a new generation of patient self test systems to find ready acceptance by patients. In fact, the development of blood glucose monitoring systems for diabetic patients provides one good example of how manufacturers are regularly adding new features and capabilities to these consumer self-test products.
Chip Advances Lift Ultrasound Market, Help Save Lives
Hospitals that invest in health information technology (HIT) have better outcomes, better risk-adjusted mortality rates, and higher patient satisfaction scores than other hospitals that do not make such investments, according to a recent survey.
Interestingly, the researchers did not establish a direct causal relationship between technology and outcomes. Instead, investment in information technology accompanies other hospital efforts to improve processes and patient care, explained Lydon Neumann, senior executive at Accenture LLC , a consulting firm that assisted in the survey, the Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study.
“Most wired hospitals excel in many ways but a strong investment in and commitment to information technology are characteristic of leaders who are looking at all of the elements needed to be a high-performing organization,” Neumann explained.
Hospitals & Health Networks magazine , the journal of the American Hospital Association, in Chicago, has done the survey annually for 10 years. HHN uses the results to name the 100 most wired hospitals and health systems. This year, 556 hospitals and health systems completed the survey, representing 1,327 hospitals.
HHN conducted the survey in cooperation with Accenture, McKesson Corp., and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. For the survey, hospitals report on how they use information technology to address five key areas:
1. Safety and quality
2. Customer service
3. Business processes
4. Workforce, and
5. Public health and safety.
“Quality and satisfaction are often tied to key initiatives and goals that hospitals are striving toward through the use of technology and process improvement,” explained Merrie Wallace, R.N., vice president and solution line manager for McKesson Provider Technologies. “The most successful hospitals use technology as part of an overall strategy and achieve significant results. Those that just deploy technology for technology’s sake don’t see these types of results.”
Only six institutions have earned the designation “most wired” every year for the 10 years that the magazine has done the survey. They are:
1. Avera Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.
2. Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center
3. MeritCare Health System, Fargo, N.D.
4. Partners HealthCare, Boston
5. Sharp HealthCare, San Diego
6. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center