BETHESDA, Md--One hundred years after W. Konrad Roentgen's discovery of the x-ray (which he refused to patent), the field of radiology continues to produce "wondrous accomplishments," such as modern digital, cross-sectional, and interventional radiology, Alexander R. Margulis, MD, associate chancellor, Special Projects, University of California, San Francisco, said at a conference sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Margulis credits recent advances in radiology to the "close cooperation among industry, universities, basic scientists, and academic and clinical radiologists." This theme was echoed by Tom Miller, vice president, Imaging Systems Group, Siemens Medical Systems, Inc., who believes that radiology will keep pace with the changes in health-care delivery.
Custom Fit or Mass Production?
"The provision of health care is entering a period of mass production, after a long interval of customization," Mr. Miller said, citing the formation of business networks, use of standardized practice guidelines, and reliance on practice review meetings to minimize expensive deviations from a standard. "And health care is beginning to practice the kind of economy of scale that other businesses have long used," he added.
Hospitals, for example, are joining or forming networks to capture large managed care contracts' increasing profitability, he said.
Mr. Miller cited magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a good example of the move to mass production in the field of radiology. In the early 1960s, each MRI system was customized for the facility that ordered it, which led to high cost.
"Now we have mass production and standardization. With only slight modifications, an MRI in rural Nevada will be the same system placed in downtown Chicago. This has significantly reduced the cost," Mr. Miller said.