As mentioned in our June 2nd blog highlighting some results from IMV’s newly published 2020 Diagnostic Imaging Equipment Service Outlook Report, the types of support services hospitals typically have in their current service contracts are the classic “break-and-fix” and preventive maintenance (PM) services, including “PM visits during routine working hours,” “technical support by telephone,” “contracted on-site response time for service visits,” “OEM parts,” and “remote diagnostics.” These support services address a key department priority to “reduce the mean time to repair imaging equipment,” which two thirds of the respondents indicated is a top priority to address over the next few years.

With the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic having widespread impact nationwide, respondents were also asked what impact, if any, COVID-19 had on their need for equipment service during March-May 2020, by modality. Of the responding sites the top modality needing more service support is mobile x-ray, primarily due to the increased usage of mobile x-ray during this period for COVID-related procedures.

Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate impact on imaging procedures. The top two changes affecting imaging departments due to the current climate are “declines in imaging procedures due to reduction in related elective procedures” (with 90% of the respondents so indicating) and “due to patient cancellations” (85%). This procedure downturn has in turn affected the short-term need for service support, where the key services needed are the traditional “break-and-fix” services. Of the respondents who have needed more service support for at least one modality, the top two support services needed were “more on-site service visits” and “replacement parts.”

The top three modalities needing less service support are nuclear medicine cameras, mammography, and MRI, mostly due to fewer studies being performed using these modalities during the March-May 2020 time frame.

The exact timing and nature of a “full recovery” for imaging departments to return to “normal” is yet to be determined. Currently, imaging departments across the country are experiencing reduced operating hours or days open, closures of imaging locations, and layoffs/furloughs/hiring freezes of imaging technologists.

Going forward, IMV’s 2020 Diagnostic Imaging Equipment Service Outlook Report points to a more strategic direction beyond “break-and-fix” that imaging departments will seek from their service providers. When asked to indicate which types of support services will be “more important” to have in future service contracts, imaging departments are likely to seek value-added remote and software-related services in addition to the classic “break-and-fix” services, including “remote diagnostics,” “cybersecurity services,” “remote repair of software,” “software upgrades for new clinical capabilities,” and “software updates for bug fixes.”

Interestingly, these value-added services will work well as the “new normal” may require even more sophisticated virtual solutions. Respondent suggestions echoed the need for better communications with their service providers and value-added remote support services to further improve their mean time to repair and imaging operations:

  • “Better communication with service techs and imaging directors regarding status of equipment (fixed, waiting for parts, will return in morning, etc.).”
  • “Use of artificial intelligence to identify concerns before they become a major problem.”
  • “Continued remote access to assess the issue so parts can be ordered, if needed, rather than wasting the drive time of a biomed tech to come diagnose onsite.”
  • “Cybersecurity is the hot topic now. We are fully digital and integrated with PACS.”
  • “Lessons learned from COVID will be part of the new normal.”

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Lorna Young is senior director, imaging insights, at IMV Medical Information Division, part of Science and Medicine Group.

IMV’s 2020 Diagnostic Imaging Equipment Service Outlook Report provides insight into the types of post-warranty service arrangements used by U.S. hospitals for eleven key imaging modalities: CT, MRI, PET/CT, nuclear medicine/SPECT cameras, fixed C-arms, portable C-arms, fixed and mobile general X-ray, radiographic fluoroscopy (RF), mammography, and ultrasound. IMV’s report quantifies the market shares of the imaging equipment manufacturers (OEMs) vs. third-party service providers, describes the use of different types of service contract arrangements by modality, the types of support services preferred, and identifies trends in priorities for future service contracts and preferred contract types. The report is based on responses from more than 230 radiology/imaging administrators and biomedical engineering managers in U.S. hospitals who participated in IMV’s nationwide survey in February-March 2020.

Service providers covered in this report include both equipment manufacturers and third-party service organizations, including Agfa, BC Technical/Alpha Source, Canon/Toshiba, Carestream, Fujifilm, GE, Hitachi, Hologic, Konica Minolta, Philips, Samsung, Shimadzu, Siemens, Sodexo, TriMedx, and United Imaging.

For information about purchasing IMV’s report, visit the corporate website at http://www.imvinfo.com or call 703-778-3080 ext. 1033 to speak with a representative.