Upgrade should prolong useful life of systemsGE Medical Systems is hoping to tap a pent-up desire among itscustomers for digital radiography and fluoroscopy through therelease of a new upgrade package designed specifically for film-basedsystems
GE Medical Systems is hoping to tap a pent-up desire among itscustomers for digital radiography and fluoroscopy through therelease of a new upgrade package designed specifically for film-basedsystems that are eight or more years old. In early July, the Milwaukee-basedcompany released its digital radiology system for the installedbase (DRI) upgrade as a cost-effective way for pre-Advantx customersto achieve digital R/F.
Advantx, introduced in 1987, was the first digital R/F systemreleased by a major vendor. It could be purchased as a digitalor totally film-based system. If digital was not initially chosen,the customer had the capability of upgrading later. But ownersof GE's previously released R/F products, the RFX and SFX systems,did not have a digital option until just recently.
"We've got approximately 2000 R/F rooms out there in theU.S. market that are eligible for this upgrade," said SandyKopp, Americas R/F marketing manager for GE. "DRI can createa rebirth of these rooms."
The upgrade includes a digital computer and a replacement televisioncamera to be swapped into the imaging chain of the old system.It may also involve replacing the image intensifier (II).
"We will do a site evaluation and if the II doesn't meeta certain threshold of specifications, we will recommend thatit be replaced," she said.
The cost of the upgrade ranges from $100,000 to $200,000, dependingon the components that need to be replaced or refurbished, aswell as the capability that is installed with the upgrade. Oneoption that can bump up the price is angiography. Another is theability to run two R/F rooms instead of just one.
Customers who upgrade to digital can expect to reap certainpractical advantages, namely the elimination of film cassettehandling and the ability to display images instantly. Both advantagespromise to reduce the time necessary to conduct procedures. Digitalalso opens the door to expanding the basic capabilities of R/Fsystems from such traditional examinations as barium enemas todigital subtraction angiography, which in turn could boost therevenue of installed sites by expanding the referral base. Withdigital capability, it is also possible to perform interventionalprocedures on this old equipment.
Many sites interested in upgrading their R/F rooms to digital,however, are simply looking to squeeze a few more years of utilityout of products that are nearing the end of their life cycles.
"We want to extend the life of these rooms, to help customersstay within some of their budget constraints while bringing theminto the newer technology and the benefits that digital offersin terms of productivity for those rooms," Kopp said.
GE, which built its reputation on the strength of basic x-rayequipment, has one of the industry's most extensive lines of R/Fproducts. All basic R/F systems sold today by GE, with the exceptionof the SFXi, either ship with or have the capability of beingupgraded to digital. These systems are part of the Advantx productline, but carry the old designations of RFX or SFX. The differencesbetween the two types relate to table angulation and control capabilityat tableside. The RFX, for example, provides variable speed tableangulation versus constant speed and more control than does theSFX.
"Typically 80% of the procedures done on these systemsare GI studies," Kopp said. "Digital stretches theircapability into doing angiographic procedures as well."
Increasing the speed of operation or expanding the clinicalcapability of old systems may relieve patient backlog on R/F systemsor even angiography systems, thereby giving the hospital or clinicat least temporary relief from the need to buy a new system.
"R/F rooms in general are migrating in the direction ofbeing more flexible and providing greater exam capability,"Kopp said. "Both are being driven by today's health-careenvironment to be more efficient."