Retrofit Wireless FPD Boosts European Mobile X-ray
The newest generation of wireless flat panel X-ray boasts stronger casing, faster processing and longer battery life. Yet, their greatest benefit is not their internal components, but their method of application. The most notable beneficiary: mobile X-ray systems.
The technology of wireless FPD for X-ray usage has been available for the last few years. A higher price tag and risk of drop damage or theft damaged market confidence initially. Yet, the first generation of wireless panels combined the unique features and benefits of digital FPD: near instant processing in a cassette format. Now, the newest generation of wireless panels has been deployed in new mobile X-ray systems, providing a recipe for market success.
Uptake of wireless FPD X-ray systems has also been facilitated by the development of retrofit solutions, allowing the upgrade of existing analogue mobile X-ray systems. More recently, retrofit solutions have overcome initial teething problems and are compatible with a variety of branded systems and models. In the current economic climate, the popularity of retrofitting is rapidly increasing, offering digital capability to users who would be unable to purchase full-DR mobile systems.
The market for mobile X-ray in Western Europe has previously been experienced a slow transition to digital. Many hospitals and clinics commonly upgraded to digital for room-based X-ray systems, as the relative return on investment (ROI) from increased scan efficiency and patient throughput justify the initial outlay. For mobile X-ray, this was rarely the case. The emergence of wireless and retrofit FPD has already changed this view. Now hospitals can upgrade well-maintained analogue mobile X-ray systems at limited cost. In small clinics with small budgets, panels can also be shared between room and mobile systems, providing far greater flexibility.
Consequently, the future outlook for the EMEA mobile X-ray market looks very positive (see figure). While accounting for less than 10% of total revenues in 2011, market growth is forecast to exceed 10% annually over the next three years. Driving this trend is a raft of new systems released in the last year from major X-ray manufacturers looking to maximize growth in order to counter poorer market performance in other X-ray segments. Increased competition between suppliers will also prompt aggressive pricing; ongoing decline in flat panel detector component pricing will further exacerbate this trend.
The impact of these new systems in clinical settings is clearly positive; radiographers will no longer have to shuttle between patient bedsides and processing rooms, increasing exam efficiency. Wireless panels simplify patient positioning during exams, as panels are not tethered. Digital FPD solutions also boast dose reduction benefits, especially important in clinical settings outside the radiography suite. Combined, these features not only improve the workflow, but improve standards and safety for the patient and radiographer.
The revolution taking hold of the mobile X-ray market is not founded on groundbreaking and expensive new technology. Instead, significant change and improvement is being achieved by utilising existing technology and adapting it for use in novel new ways. Manufacturers of mobile X-ray systems have taken notice of the current challenges affecting the modern hospital and radiographer, and produced solutions that address these challenges. As a reward, strong demand for these new solutions will provide welcome respite in troubled times.
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