s03a.jpg (11262 bytes)In the early days of teleradiology, physicians and administrators at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (Iowa City) quickly recognized the developing technology’s potential to help rural hospitals struggling to provide timely, accurate radiology services to their patients. Jumping into the teleradiology business early on, they also quickly recognized the challenges.

Teleradiology has been around since the 1950s, but it was not until the early 1990s — with the growing use of digital communication technologies — that teleradiology began to look more promising for widespread applications, particularly with the integration of PACS (picture archiving and communications systems).

According to market research firm Frost & Sullivan (San Jose, Calif.), the converging teleradiology-PACS market generated $421 million in 2000, a 56 percent growth rate. The report also predicts revenues for the U.S. teleradiology and PACS market will climb to more than $1 billion by 2007.

Whatever the true economic impact, it is true that more and more teleradiology services are popping up. Many vendors are willing to work only with hospitals or clinics able to invest in the latest telecommunications infrastructure and technology to create a nearly seamless and flawless connection. Those requirements eliminate many of the facilities that could use teleradiology the most, small community hospitals.

Rural needs
“There are an awful lot of communities here in the state of Iowa that are having trouble providing radiology service, because radiologists are either retiring or getting better job offers, and [communities] can’t recruit anybody to replace them,” says Mark Hingtgen, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic’s (UI Hospitals) radiology administrator.

Please refer to the February 2002 issue for the complete story. For information on article reprints, contact Martin St. Denis