Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Breast Imaging Market Is Picking Up After Slow Period

Published on the March 7, 2013 DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

The tides are turning for breast imagers nationwide. After struggling through several years of declining demand and facility closures, the market is rebounding and more growth is expected.

The number of breast imaging facilities dropped by nearly 7 percent from 2002 to 2011, according to a recent report from global growth consulting company Frost & Sullivan. Roberto Aranibar, a Frost & Sullivan advanced medical technologies industry analyst, said several factors  — the  rise in breast cancer incidents, an increase in breast cancer surgical procedures, and an uptick in supplemental screening exams — are converging to prompt expansion in this area.

In fact, Aranibar said he anticipates breast imaging market revenues to climb from $1 billion in 2011 to $1.4 billion by 2016, crediting the rise in the number of exams performed. Diagnostic Imaging talked with Aranibar about this report, why the market has changed, and what the industry can expect.

What are the main factors behind the decrease in breast imaging facilities nationwide?

It’s part of a larger trend. There’s consolidation going on among healthcare providers, and individual facilities are reducing their own costs through staff reduction. Using their equipment more efficiently also helps them be more productive. We’re also seeing a lot of mergers between large facilities of chains of facilities. The decrease in the number of these imaging centers is just part of a broader trend.

What caused the drop in facilities to stabilize?

From a broad perspective, there’s a little more certainty in the healthcare industry after the Supreme Court upheld the healthcare reform bill last summer. Some of the major questions and unknowns have been answered. Consequently, it’s helped people better plan their next steps to maintain the stability of their facilities.

What do you expect will happen with breast imaging over the next five years?

There are many different trends going on right now. There’s a lot of controversy around X-ray mammography and its risks and benefits. Based on that, it’s probably the most highly-regulated imaging field. There’s a lot of technological innovation in this area — a lot of new imaging systems with different modalities, including MRI, ultrasound, molecular breast imaging, and tomosynthesis.

I think one of the biggest trends we see is there’s a lot of talk about breast density notification legislation. That’s a major factor when considering what will happen in the market over the next few years. By law, physicians must include in a woman’s mammography results letter if she has been identified as having dense breast tissue, explain the implications, and discuss whether they could benefit from supplemental exams. We saw a major increase in breast ultrasound procedures after the law went into effect in Connecticut. X-ray mammography is a great tool — it’s very efficient, fast, and cost effective, but it’s being questioned more than ever right now for its reliability. That leaves the door open for a lot of supplemental exams to come into the picture, and that’s where more of the growth in this field will be concentrated.

Breast ultrasound is also an area that is expected to grow. In addition, there’s a major study out that could help move tomosynthesis, which is currently really costly and not something that CMS reimburses for, into something that could get the agency’s approval for reimbursement. As soon as something like that happens, and the cost comes down, we’ll start to see it used more. It’s really proven itself to be a reliable and effective tool, and I think you’ll see a lot more of this as facilities try to stay at the forefront of technology. Rather than referring their patients out for supplemental exams, facilities are going to try to keep everything in-house.

Molecular breast imaging is a modality like PET and nuclear medicine. It involves an injection of radioactive tracers, and radiologists look at where those tracers are concentrated. It’s a more tedious process, and there’s as learning curve involved. Facilities must be licensed to handle radioactive material, and the procedure takes longer, is more costly, and it isn’t reimbursable by CMS. There’s work ongoing now to try to prove that molecular breast imaging is more diagnostically reliable in identifying cancers. But there are issues with it currently, such as managing the radiation dose. So, I don’t think it will be affected much as the market starts to grow again.

To read the remainder of the Q&A at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/breast-imaging/breast-imaging-market-picking-after-slow-period

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March 8, 2013 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , ,

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