In addition to its work in the healthcare space, GE is well known for its role in the aviation sector, manufacturing and maintaining aircraft engines and systems for some of the world’s best known airlines. In aviation, airlines operating an ageing aircraft fleet expect lower fuel efficiency and higher operating costs. Healthcare faces a similar issue according to new data focused on Europe’s ageing fleet of medical imaging equipment.
The 2014 Medical Imaging Equipment Age Profile and Density Report from COCIR (European Coordination Committee of the Radiological Electromedical and Healthcare IT industry) shows that diagnostic imaging technology in many EU countries is now the oldest it has ever been, and cites economic austerity measures across Europe as the major driver.
The data shows, for example, that one in every five Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) systems in Europe is currently over 10 years old. In Spain this increases to as many as one in three. Overall, the number of MRI, Computed Tomography (CT), Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Angiography equipment in Europe that is aged six years or older has increased by 40 percent since 2008.
Nicole Denjoy, Secretary General of COCIR explained: “At over 10 years old, imaging equipment is not as powerful in diagnostic capability or function compared to the newer machines which bring great benefits in terms of image quality, allowing for more accurate and confident diagnoses, patient throughput, so more patients can be seen and progressed quickly to the right treatment pathway, and innovations like remote servicing capability, to reduce the downtime of a machine.
“Unsurprisingly, as technology ages, it becomes less suited to, and often incapable of, performing at the levels demanded by the increasing pressures on the healthcare system and the requirements of progressive medical guidelines.”
The value of investing in innovation
Jean Michel Malbrancq, CEO of GE Healthcare Europe, added that improved technology opens new possibilities for patient-centric healthcare. “There is more and more pressure on healthcare systems to cope with the ageing population and the increased prevalence of chronic disease. Yet, much of Europe is persisting with old equipment that simply cannot offer the same benefits to patients in terms of diagnostic quality, reliability and speed. In addition, every year sees incremental improvements in technology which allow breakthroughs like low-dose CT. Advances like these are not so readily available in an old installed base.”
The COCIR report does highlight some examples of best practice in Europe. In Poland, France and Denmark, many healthcare providers have already recognized the need to invest in a newer installed base and have adopted innovative funding mechanisms such as capital financing programs to protect against technical obsolescence. Others are utilizing Managed Equipment Services (MES), contractual partnerships between a care provider and an equipment supplier, providing access to medical technology and services against a fixed annual fee.
“An old installed imaging equipment base can present major implications to the welfare of patients. We believe that short-term financial accounting must not be allowed to jeopardize the uptake of newer technology that can transform the delivery of care for patients. Smart financing mechanisms already exist to help facilitate the adoption of innovative technology in European hospitals. Some governments are starting to recognize this but our figures show that more needs to be done” said Nicole Denjoy.