Magazine 1031

Diagnostic Radiology – Expanding Footprints

Diagnostic-RadiologyFocused healthcare intervention by the Indian Government will further push the diagnostic radiology market in the country, allowing more facilities to purchase or upgrade diagnostic imaging equipment, explores Elets News Network (ENN)

The Indian radiology market is witnessing tectonic shifts with the major players trying to explore and penetrate the market in tier II and tier III cities with the tier I cities reaching the saturation point.

Radiology players in India are eyeing tier II and tier III cities for augmenting their growth. The radiology sector in India is set to witness significant growth in the coming years. Booming demand for healthcare services and greater knowledge about evidence-based diagnosis, added with increasing awareness of available advanced technology, are few key determinants that have added to the growth of the radiology market in India. As a report published by the Millennium Research Group (MRG) says, the Indian market for diagnostic imaging systems is at the moment witnessing a strong growth rate each year. For instance, in 2011, the diagnostic imaging market witnessed an average growth rate of nearly nine per cent. There is also a prediction that the market might reach almost US$ 830 million by 2016.

North America dominates the global diagnostic imaging market owing to growing instances of chronic diseases and a sizeable number of aged population. The market in the Asian-Pacific region is projected to grow at a rate of six percent through 2022, with China and India witnessing fastest growth because of growing awareness, high patient ratio, increasing healthcare expenditure and government’s focus on health in the developing economies. GE Healthcare, Siemens Healthcare, Philips, Samsung Electronics, Hitachi, Toshiba Corporation and Carestream Health are some of the players in this market.

A whole gamut of demographic factors, increased urbanisation are leading to sustained economic development and saturation in metro cities are some of the dimensions that draw radiology players to venture into these semi-urban areas and small towns. Dr Harsh Mahajan, MD, Mahajan Imaging, one of India’s preeminent radiologists said, “The tier II and tier III cities have huge potential for the radiology market players, especially for the local and mid-sized players. These cities are emblematic of an area of under-served need, with a growing demand for improved health services and infrastructure.”

According to a study conducted by the FICCI, India needs to add huge number of beds for providing satisfactory healthcare. Therefore, many new hospitals will have to be established in tier II and tier III cities, and this might open new markets for radiology companies.

Apart from increasing demand for healthcare services, new advancements in radiology are also contributing a lot in the rapid progress of the radiology market in these areas. Experts reveal that earlier the radiology market entered the tier II and III with X-ray services and then ultrasound services were brought in. However, now technologies such CT, MRI, PACS and digital radiology are also available in these cities.

Harsh-MahajanDr Harsh Mahajan, MD, Mahajan Imaging

“The tier II and tier III cities have huge potential for the radiology market players, especially for the local and mid-sized players. These cities are emblematic of an area of under-served need, with a growing demand for improved health services and infrastructure”

Market in Vogue

Jaipur, Lucknow, Nagpur, Pune, Jalgaon, Meerut, Phagwara, Kochi, Bhopal, Ludhiana, Faridabad, Chandigarh, Agra, Amritsar and Nashik are the tier II cites that have witnessed a surge of activity in the radiology market domain. The new areas are tier III cities like Dehradun, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Gurgaon, Noida, Greater Noida, Thiruvananthapuram et al. Imaging and diagnostics chains such as Metropolis Health Services, Suburban Diagnostics, NM Medical and Lifecare Diagnostic Centres are also venturing into these markets.

Radiology equipment manufacturers like Allengers, Sonosite, Carestream, Modi Medicals, Toshiba, Fuji and others have exploited most of the avenues available in the tier II city market. These giants have introduced advanced imaging systems that fulfil the needs of radiology departments and imaging centres, both large and small. Giants like GE, Siemens and Philips are also expressing interests in these markets.

Dr Mahajan, on the other hand, sees a growing trend of deploying re-used equipment in these markets. According to him, “There are many local medical imaging equipment companies who sell re-used radiology machines to hospitals and imaging centres. These machines are available at a price which is half the cost of a new equipment and provides reasonable, quality services. However, adopting re-used equipment within hospitals and imaging centres could also mean risking patients’ lives.’’ When inquired about the risks involved in using these equipment, he stated: “These machines are normally FDA-approved machines. Radiologists opt for these machines as they are not in the position to invest in high-priced imaging systems. When they buy these reused machines, they feel that at least they are providing a service which was not available to people earlier. Personally, I feel opting for these machines could risk a patient’s life. One needs to be very careful while purchasing these systems. All safety parameters, especially the radiation dose levels, should be checked prior to buying these equipment.”

Skill gaps

Major challenges in the segment include lack of skilled manpower, legal and regulatory issues, and the growing need for huge investment. Eminent radiologists are urging medical education institutes to introduce diploma courses in radiology and imaging operations. They are saying that introduction of such courses can add to the human resources in this field. As per healthcare experts systematic guidelines and proper regulations can be very effective in keeping a check on all fly-by-night operators in this field. Meanwhile some doctors feel that introduction of teleradiology services in all tier III cities and rural areas of India can help in augmenting the success story of radiology in the country.

A Revolution of Sorts

Diagnostic-imagingDiagnostic imaging has witnessed revolutionary advancements right from bed-side monitoring to high-end digital scanning. These have made healthcare simpler for the layman. For instance, glucose levels can now be monitored at home, leading to convenience and user-friendliness. As the scope of innovation and advancement is tremendous, the sectors associated with medical imaging, especially IT, is also growing likewise due to the demand for better ways of delivering quality healthcare.

At present, nuclear medicine techniques involving gamma and PET/CT imaging are the leading methods in molecular imaging modalities. By 2020, more procedures in molecular imaging are expected to be launched for clinical applications to scan functional aspects of organs besides morphology. Moreover, advanced imaging techniques such as magnetic particle imaging may be developed as alternative option for improved clinical diagnostic results.

Advantage India

  • Availability of qualified radiologists is more compared to other countries.
  • Availability of radiologists who are trained from different parts of the globe is satisfactory.
  • India is already an IT hub. This supports the growth of teleradiology as IT is one of the backbones of teleradiology.
  • Availability of supporting human resources — IT support, transcriptionists, physician assistants etc — is good enough.
  • India’s geographical location — ability to serve different countries comparably — is favourable.

Radiology players in India are eyeing tier II and tier III cities for augmenting their growth. The radiology sector in India is set to witness significant growth in the coming years

India Imaging

In the last few years, India witnessed technological shift from analogue to digital and affordable cost of imaging solutions. Remarkable suppliers of high-end systems in India are GE Healthcare, Toshiba Medical Systems, Siemens Healthcare and Philips Healthcare.

On the other hand, the Indian Radiological and Imaging Association (IRIA) are also promoting the research on various imaging modalities using various platforms. A study by the Decision Resources Group’s (DRG’s) on imaging diagnostic market in India points to three key ingredients for the growth of this segment high growth of medical tourism due to a low cost; upward trend in acquiring high-end and advanced imaging systems; and increasing demand for refurbished devices in order to check on prices. As per a trend analysis, large MNCs are now looking to modify their products to match the requirements of Indian healthcare facilities. For instance, GE Healthcare launched Discovery IQ, a PET/CT molecular imaging system designed in India and is claimed to be 40% more affordable. Toshiba Medical Systems has introduced Vantage Elan MRI system with optional power-saving mode and compact design. Entry of Dabur into imaging segment in Delhi/NCR region is also an interesting development.

Digital Scanning

Increasing healthcare burden across the globe due to diverse reasons attributed to specific territories will trigger the demand for advanced imaging solutions, as the sector witnessed aggressive investments and M&A activities in the recent past. The market is poised to evolve with inclination towards innovation and development aspects than the traditional market capturing tactics. According to a study by Yole Developpement (Yole), the global market for medical imaging sensors is projected to grow to 6.7 million units in 2019 from 2.1 million units in 2013, exhibiting a CAGR of 11 percent reaching US$ 142 million by 2019. X-rays device market governs this segment accounting for 93 percent of total imaging solutions market worldwide, due to exorbitant cost of X-ray systems.

Growth of diagnostic imaging in India will serve the interest of all stakeholders as introduction of new and cost-effective imaging solutions would be on priority to translate the benefits to the patients. Diagnostic Imaging sector in India is grossly fragmented between three major proponents including corporate hospitals, research institutions and private imaging clinics. A major percentage of healthcare facilities in small cities and rural areas along with government hospitals, barring a few state-of-the-art hospitals, will drive the demand for imaging devices in the country.

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