The average age of an installed MRI scanner in Asia and the United States exceeds 11 years, according to a report from IMV Medical Information Division, 2014. However, technology goes on advancing and hence many imaging facilities look to upgrade their existing equipment to make a place for themselves in the market. The recent trend for hospitals as well as private facilities is that they are looking more for operational efficiency, clinical excellence, patient satisfaction, and strategic management. The trend is definitely toward a 3T over 1.5T MR systems. Higher field strength magnets like 3T provide high-resolution excellent images, lower scan times, and increased signal to noise ratio.
With the shift toward a value-based payment model, there is a clear need for fast robust MRI exams across the board. According to market research, rescans due to operator uncertainties, patient motion, imaging artifacts are the real challenge and need to be dealt with. The first thing all facilities are looking at is to focus on first time-right imaging. A few vendors are now offering the select and go interface that is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that enhances the workflow productivity. This technique removes the need for anatomical landmarks, enabling faster patient positioning. Optional dockable tables are also available which further facilitate workflow and patient safety. Turbo suite acceleration packages which are customized speed applications for routine examinations for various parts of the body are available that reduce scan time by nearly 50 percent without compromising on the image quality.
The other trend based on value-based payment models is that customers want to keep their equipment for a longer period of time, as most private and mid-sized hospitals like to make a large capital investment only once or twice in the system life span. Hence, there is a need to stay up to date through software upgrades and keep the original magnet.
Apart from increasing the diagnostic confidence of the radiologist due to the improved image quality, today’s MR technology also provides great patient experience. Most vendors have replaced the standard 60 cm bore by the 70 cm bore. Patient experience is a critical component of the broader partnership between radiology practices and patients. New MRI scanners are now offering innovision in-bore infotainment system, designed to travel with the scanner table. It substantially improves patient satisfaction during MR exams. It provides a video experience with excellent sound quality along with a display showing the remaining scan time.
AI is by far the hottest trend discussed in all radiology conferences and expo floors across the world. It helps in augmenting doctors to find relevant data, scan images, and call up past exams, results, and reports consolidating information crucial to patient care. It not only boosts work-flow efficiency, but it also helps in patient care and throughput. A lot of AI software is being developed. In the largest world radiology conference RSNA, held in November 2018, several companies showed AI products that have got FDA approval as well as those pending approvals. The four main areas where AI is being implemented are computer-aided diagnosis, clinical decision support, quantitative analysis tool, and computer-aided detection.
AI image diagnostic software is being developed and commercialized primarily for stroke where timing is crucial for patient care. It is also of great importance in cardiac MRI to reduce the time of exam as well as reduce the time taken by the radiologist to review the scan. The software is also being developed to help auto triage patients who need additional or more immediate care. There is a lot of fear in radiologists that AI in the future may put their jobs at risk. However, in emergency care, immediate information is needed to treat a patient and AI is the future.