Facility expansions. Equipment trials. Budget constraints. Natural disasters. Patient backlogs.

Unlikely members of a club, for sure. But they do have one thing in common: Each is a reason for the surge in popularity of temporary imaging solutions.

You say that new scanner you ordered hasn’t arrived yet? A tornado flattened your imaging wing? Too many patients, not enough systems? Never fear — rentals and mobile units are here.

Even if you don’t have an emergency, you may still be a candidate for temporary equipment. Maybe you’re among the many healthcare providers who are apprehensive about purchasing expensive technologies one year that might be obsolete the next. Do you just want to test drive the latest technology before you buy? Or prove to your organization’s number crunchers that it will indeed be a profitable investment? With a lease, you can do both.

For these and many other reasons, interim imaging solutions are having a major impact on the healthcare services industry. A report by business analysts Frost & Sullivan (San Jose, Calif.) says revenues for the North American mobile imaging market were $686 million in 2002, and could climb to $1.2 billion in 2008.

According to the study, Growth Opportunities in North American Mobile Imaging Markets, big hospitals aren’t the only ones leasing. Because mobile solutions can move on a daily basis, they enable smaller hospitals in a network or in a geographic area to share critical resources. The author of the study, Frost & Sullivan analyst Antonio Garcia, says, “The combination of low or sporadic procedure throughput, dispersed populations, and small medical imaging budgets has made shared mobile imaging services the ideal solution for many small- to medium-sized imaging operations.”

As a result of the growing rentals market, mobile services are expanding and modality vendors are hurrying to form strategic alliances with them, says Garcia, “including trailer and coach outfitters, transportation companies, and mobile service personnel.” In 1997, for instance, Prime Medical Services Inc., a leading lithotripsy provider based in Austin, Texas, bought a 75-percent interest in AK Specialty Vehicles (AKSV in Harvey, Ill.). AKSV subsequently acquired Calumet Coach Co. (Calumet City, Ill.) in 2001, and then bought SMIT Mobile Equipment (Oud-Beijerland, the Netherlands) in 2002. AKSV says that now makes it the world’s largest mobile medical manufacturer. The company designs and builds MRI, PET, CT, cath lab, electron beam CT (EBT) and mammography mobile units.

Please refer to the April 2003 issue for the complete story. For information on article reprints, contact Martin St. Denis