Despite initial outlay, molecular imaging improves hospitals' economic productivity

October 1, 2007

As a long-term reader of Diagnostic Imaging, I appreciated the article about my highlights talk at the SNM meeting in June ("Molecular imaging steers specialty to personalized care," August, page 43).

As a long-term reader of Diagnostic Imaging, I appreciated the article about my highlights talk at the SNM meeting in June ("Molecular imaging steers specialty to personalized care," August, page 43).

I need to make an important clarification about the economics of molecular imaging to which the article referred. Two of the economic parameters involved in healthcare are total costs of running a hospital per year and total number of hospitalized patients over the same period. Dividing total costs per year by the number of patients taken care of per year reflects "productivity." This is the cost of taking care of each patient.

By eliminating unhelpful surgery and optimizing drug regimens, molecular imaging increases productivity. The installation and operation of a cyclotron and molecular imaging facility costs money and therefore increases total hospital expenses, but it increases the number of patients who are cared for (i.e., it improves productivity).

What we need now is quantification of economic factors in molecular imaging by re-analysis of the effect of molecular imaging before and after molecular imaging was introduced in a specific hospital. Such analyses with controls can be carried out retrospectively using previous studies of effectiveness. The controls are those patients taken care of before molecular imaging was introduced.

We need to quantify molecular imaging's effect on productivity, as well as its proven effect in helping patients.

My conclusion is that molecular imaging is effective in increasing economic productivity.

Henry Wagner, M.D.
Professor of medicine, radiology, and environmental health sciences
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD