According to the 2019 CT Market Outlook Report by IMV Medical Information Division, more than 90 million CT scans were performed throughout the U.S. in 2019.
The estimated total of 91.4 million is a 3% rise from the 88.7 million recorded in 2018.
“We see procedure increases in most of the CT procedure types since 2011, including brain, CT Angiography (CTA), head and neck, spine, guided procedures, and low-dose CT used for lung screening,” says Lorna Young, senior director of market research at IMV Medical Information Division.
Among respondents, 79% of CT sites said their patient volume in 2019 for the modality was higher than their 2018 volume, a 12-point increase from the 67% in 2016 that indicated increases in patient volume.
The history of CT procedure volume
This increase follows a slowdown in procedure volume between 2011 and 2018. Between 2001 and 2011, CT procedures rose by 12% in average annual growth, reaching 85.3 million in 2011. Growth declined from this apex by 5% to 80.6 million in 2012, with the study attributing the slowdown partially to changes in CMS (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services) reimbursement policy that involved bundling certain procedures together, such as abdomen and pelvis.
The study also named “appropriate use” criteria for ordering CT procedures as another probable reason for the decline in procedure volume. In addition, the CMS leveraged “Appropriate Use” criteria by mandating under the Protecting Access of Medicare Act of 2014 that physicians use a clinical decision support system to order imaging studies which ensures imaging resources are used appropriately and minimizes over-utilization.
How the industry is coping
The growth in CT procedures was especially seen in emergency medicine. According to the study, about half of CT scans in 2019 were performed on an emergency basis. An additional 30% were performed on outpatients.
The escalated volume and unscheduled scans are interfering with routine workflows. Improving workflow and productivity have become high priorities among CT departments. Many are also to improve staff satisfaction and seeking better management of increased CT volume.
Some hospitals with more than 400 beds have addressed these challenges by placing CT scanners directly in or near EDs, in addition to those installed in their main radiology departments. More than 50% of these providers have at least one of their CT scanners in their ED, according to IMV.
Most of the study respondents also indicated a desire for improved IT capabilities to address CMS’ requirements for implementing “appropriate use” criteria through electronic decision support systems. Improved IT would also integrate cumulative radiation and contrast dose tracking into their workflows and increase cyber-security. However, only 18%, indicated a high likelihood of being early adopters of AI, with providers considering it still in the early adoption state.
The future of CT procedure volume
The CT market is expected to remain moderately stable, with 80% of planned CT purchases meant to replace older equipment. 28% of CT sites have indicated their intention to buy a scanner over the next three years, while 23% say they may consider it as well. The combined total of both responses has been relatively consistent at 51-58% since IMV’s 2012 report.
Among those that are interested in purchasing replacement machines, over 80% of planned CT scanners will have configurations with 64 or more slices. Facilities are also seeking advances in CT hardware and software technology in order to generate high-quality images, reduce the need for using contrast media, lower radiation dose, scan obese patients, and decrease scan time.
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