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10 Technologies for Hospital C-suites to Watch

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, May 12, 2009

Hospital executives want to ensure their organizations are at the cutting edge of technology and investing their scarce dollars wisely. So which technologies are hot for 2009 and beyond? The ECRI Institute, an independent nonprofit organization that researches which medical procedures, devices, drugs, and processes are best equipped to improve patient care, released its top 10 list of technologies that hospital executives should keep an eye on.

The top 10 technologies are:

1. Electronic Medical Records. This should not come as a surprise to C-suite executives given the funding for health information technology that is included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Hospital executives should be determining which IT projects they need to accomplish before they can adopt an EMR, so they can be prepared to hit the ground running once the government defines meaningful use. Organizations that already have a strong foundation in IT and have implemented an EMR can probably continue along their IT path and make any adjustments required once meaningful use is defined later this year.

2. Ultrahigh-Field-Strength MRI and Premium-Slice CT. The magnetic resonance imaging market has been moving toward use of more ultrahigh-field-strength and open high-field-strength systems, which have a stronger magnet (3.0 T). They can provide a higher signal to noise ratio than the 1.5 T systems, so clinicians can obtain better quality images faster. However, they also come with a hefty price tag. But do hospitals really need these now? Most MRI magnets last 10 to 12 years and today's high-end scanners will likely dominate the market in the next five to eight years. Healthcare executives will need to decide if they should purchase the costly UFS or open HFS systems or the more reasonably priced 1.5 T systems that may be outdated before reaching the end of their expected life cycle.

Similarly, there are now 320-slice CT scanners on the market and 64-slice systems are becoming the typical new purchase. But 64-slice and higher-slice systems can cost upwards of $1.5 million, whereas basic systems of 16 or fewer slices and reduced specifications still provide adequate image quality for 90% of clinical applications, according to the report. "Given the current economic climate, most hospitals should consider purchasing the basic systems because they will meet the vast majority of clinical needs," said ECRI researchers.

3. Physician Preference Items. The cost of these implantable items such as cardiac stents, pacemakers, orthopedic implants have grown to roughly 50% of the hospital's total supply costs. It is crucial for hospital administrators to provide physicians with objective information about the clinical evidence, safety, and costs so that they can make decisions based on real evidence-based clinical benefits.

4. Robotic-Assisted Systems for Surgery and Endovascular Catheterization. The pressure for hospitals to acquire a robot has increased with the new generation of surgical residents, requirements of residency programs, and the need to stay competitive. Not to mention there are new surgical applications that are emerging in pediatrics, gynecology, and general surgery. Still the systems have a five to six year life cycle, cost $1 million to $3 million and have annual maintenance contracts that are upwards of $100,000. So how many robots does a hospital really need? Executives will need to carefully assess the high capital costs of a second or third robot against the possible growth of surgical volumes, the ability to accommodate robots in OR suites, scheduling issues, and the market advantage of providing robot assisted surgery, ECRI researchers said.

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