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U.K. imaging group builds strength from industry numbers


United we stand, divided we may not necessarily get the best deal. That’s the message driving changes to AXrEM, the trade association representing the U.K. medical imaging industry.

United we stand, divided we may not necessarily get the best deal. That's the message driving changes to AXrEM, the trade association representing the U.K. medical imaging industry.

The Association of X-ray Equipment Manufacturers was formed in the 1960s. At the time, its membership comprised just a few large multinationals, according to Peter Staff, AXrEM's new chair and managing director of medical imaging equipment supplier Xograph Imaging Systems.

Lately, however, the organization has been trying to broaden its membership. This move reflects the changing nature of the medical imaging marketplace and should give the association greater lobbying power.

"We now have different modalities, like ultrasound, MRI, and PET, as well as radiography. It was considered necessary to have an internal audit to see if the association was going to be relevant to the 21st century," Staff said.

The exercise has resulted in AXrEM being rebranded as the Association of Healthcare Technology Providers for Imaging, Radiotherapy, and Care. The shortened name of AXrEM (pronounced ax-rem) will remain, though, to prevent losing the value of the organization's positive track record, he said.

AXrEM has expanded to represent a broader array of interests in the medical imaging sector, including providers of healthcare IT solutions and image-guided radiotherapy equipment. The 10-member group now comprises Philips Medical Systems, Kodak Health Imaging, Med Imaging, GE Healthcare, Toshiba Medical Systems, Siemens Medical Solutions, Elekta, Fuji Photo, Ferrania Imaging Technologies, and Xograph Imaging Systems.

Staff intends to build on AXrEM's emergence as an all-encompassing body during his two-year tenure as its chair. His first aim is to promote the enlarged association as a single point-of-contact on the views of the U.K. medical imaging industry. Any stakeholder involved in the provision of radiology services - whether representatives of the U.K. government, health service providers, or regulators - should simply talk to AXrEM, rather than waste time trying to meet with individual companies, he said.

He also plans to forge links with other like-minded bodies and trade organizations to gain additional strength when lobbying.

"Imaging is often the biggest spend in the hospital. It is major equipment, and it has huge benefits in its ability to diagnose," he said. "I think we should be talking to anyone who can move our cause forward as an industry or who could help patients and our health service generally."

Work to meet these objectives has already started. AXrEM has submitted written evidence to a U.K. parliamentary health committee enquiry into the use of medical technologies within the government-funded National Health Service. The association has also initiated dialogue with the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the government-sponsored Healthcare Industries Task Force, and the National Programme for IT, which is overseeing a mass rollout of PACS (DI SCAN 04/04/05). AXrEM is currently engaged in negotiations with the NHS supply agency over the ongoing relevance of its terms and conditions for imaging equipment procurement.

AXrEM has also started discussions with the trade body representing the in vitro diagnostics industry, with a view to finding common ground. Suppliers of medical imaging equipment and in vitro testing kits have a vested interest in U.K. government plans to set up stand-alone centers for diagnostic testing and routine treatment. The advent of such centers will likely lead to a blurring of radiology and laboratory investigations in the eyes of healthcare providers and the public, Staff said.

"You will shortly be going into these centers for "tests," whether blood tests or x-rays," he said. "That is why, when we talk to the government, we should be looking at general issues and not just focusing on specific legislation or situations that are to do with x-rays, or CT, or MRI."

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