Image: Servicing contracts for imaging equipment are changing due to COVID-19 (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Mobile x-ray systems will need more servicing in the near future due the COVID-19 outbreak, while MRI, mammography, and nuclear medicine equipment will need less.
These are the findings of a newly published report issued by IMV Medical (Arlington, VA, USA), which provides insight into the types of post-warranty service arrangements used by hospitals in the United States for eleven key imaging modalities, including CT scanners, fixed MRI scanners, fixed PET or PET/CT, fixed nuclear medicine cameras (SPECT/CT, SPECT-only, and planar-only units), fixed C-arm systems used primarily for interventional and/or cardiac procedures, portable C-arm units, fixed Radiographic Fluoroscopy (RF) units, fixed General X-ray Radiography units, mobile x-ray units, X-ray mammography units, and ultrasound units.
The researchers queried hospitals to determine changes in their service needs in March-May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They found that as a result of the outbreak, the top modality needing more service support is mobile x-ray, primarily due to increased use for COVID-related procedures. The top three modalities needing less service support are nuclear medicine cameras, mammography, and MRI, mostly due to fewer studies being performed using these modalities during the survey time frame.
The report also points to a more strategic direction beyond "break-and-fix" that imaging departments will seek from their service providers. When asked to indicate which support services will be important to have in future service contracts, imaging departments looked for value-added remote and software-related services in addition to repair services, including a need for remote diagnostics, remote repair of software, cybersecurity services, software upgrades and updates for bug fixes. These services address a key department priority to reduce the mean time to repair imaging equipment.
“Virtually all U.S. hospitals have service contracts with at least one OEM for the postwarranty service of their diagnostic imaging equipment, while over half have service contracts with at least one third-party service organization,” concluded IMV Medical. “Hospitals are more likely to use full-service contracts with OEMs for CT, MRI, and x-ray mammography systems, but for general x-ray equipment, they are more likely to use either a third-party service organization or use shared service contracts.”
The exact timing and nature of a full recovery for imaging departments to return to normal from COVID-19 is yet to be determined. Sharp declines are being experience due to a reduction in related elective procedures and patient cancellations. Imaging departments are also experiencing reduced operating hours or days open, closures of imaging locations and services, and layoffs, furloughs, and hiring freezes of radiologic technologists.