GE mobile x-ray enters 21st century with global release of digital unit


GE’s AMX mobile x-ray system, one of the most globally pervasive imaging platforms ever built, will soon be joined by a digital cousin.

GE's AMX mobile x-ray system, one of the most globally pervasive imaging platforms ever built, will soon be joined by a digital cousin.

The analog mobile x-ray system from GE has been installed over the past two decades at thousands of sites around the world. But, as more facilities seek filmless capabilities, customers want a mobile configuration featuring a digital detector, according to Darrell Johnson, GE marketing manager for x-ray. This could translate into an enormous load of digital images with the promise of improving efficiency.

"About half of the 150 million x-ray images performed annually are done on portable units," Johnson said. "From a workflow standpoint, going digital translates into a big advantage as facilities are increasingly asked to do more with less."

GE unveiled the Digital AMX 4+ Mobile System at last year's RSNA meeting and showed it again at the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators meeting in August. Shipments of the flat-panel upgrade will begin toward the end of the year. This latest configuration does not mean, however, that its owners will go digital - at least not all at once.

The Digital AMX 4+ Mobile System offers digital flat-panel imaging alongside a film-based bucky. Johnson expects customers to use both digital and analog for awhile, as they adjust to the different demands of digital imaging.

Several competitors exist in the digital mobile market, including Siemens, Shimadzu, and Canon, which offers a retrofitted version. Johnson said GE holds two key advantages over these competitors. First, its leadership position in the global market ensures a loyal customer base. Second, the digital mobile unit uses the same technology as the fixed system, ensuring the same high-quality images.

"Other providers don't have that," he said.

Hospitals are moving increasingly toward total electronic medical record keeping. The move by GE to implement a digital mobile unit supports that trend, Johnson said.

Digital images can be stored in a PACS and accessed by radiologists and physicians from anywhere. Radiologists can make the interpretation and write the report more quickly than film-based imaging allows. This should improve patient care and productivity, he said.

Productivity is not the only way hospitals will cut costs when adopting digital mobile x-ray. Expenditures associated with film developing, printing, and storage, as well as staff time retrieving film or locating lost images, will be significantly reduced.

Computed radiography has already offered some such cost savings. The biggest advantage of the flat-panel unit versus CR is the ability to acquire the images in an ICU or trauma suite within seconds, Johnson said.

There is, however, a price to pay. Compared with film-based portables, which cost around $40,000, GE's new digital mobile product runs close to $200,000. Johnson admits that the overall cost of the digital system can be a challenge, particularly for smaller hospitals with low patient volumes. For medium to larger facilities, the cost is easier to justify, he said.

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