In this installment of Industry Insider, Dan Skyba, director, ultrasound business unit, Canon Medical Systems USA, discusses how ultrasound has “come into its own” and become a modality of choice in the global healthcare sector. He explains all below.
24×7 Magazine: The ultrasound modality is hotter than ever. In your opinion, what is contributing to this growth?
Dan Skyba: A couple of things have converged in the ultrasound market which are bolstering its growth. First, we’ve seen tremendous innovations and technological improvements in imaging quality. Ultrasound systems are on the market for every clinical use, at every price point, and all now deliver high-quality imaging. Over the past 20-25 years, there has been a dramatic improvement in image quality, resulting in ultrasound images that often rival those of CT, and even MR.
At the same time, ease of use has also improved significantly and the costs have decreased. Ultrasound has become available at almost every price point and size. There are systems available at the premium level, the introductory level, and even handheld and now tablet-size systems. The improvements in image quality, coupled with the improved ease of use and decreased costs, have created a tremendous opportunity to bring ultrasound to a broader global marketplace.
24×7: Can you please discuss some of Canon Medical’s latest ultrasound technologies?
Skyba: At Canon Medical, we offer a robust Liver Analysis Package on our Aplio i-series platform, which is designed to gives clinicians the tools they need to address every stage of liver disease. As these epidemic problems continue to grow, having a cost-effective, noninvasive way to screen, diagnose, and monitor the progression of liver disease in a relatively easy and low cost manner—through ultrasound—is a huge technological and diagnostic advancement. I expect to see the adoption of these tools continue to grow in the next few years.
We’re also seeing novel innovations in ultrasound when it comes to 3D imaging of the heart. Advancements in computing power coming from the gaming industry is changing the landscape for real-time 3D cardiac imaging with ultrasound. We’re seeing ultrasound provide moving 3D images, which show wall-motion abnormalities, better visualization of blood flow in the chambers, and the ability to see valve structures more clearly. Speckle-tracking with ultrasound is also allowing cardiologists to more clearly assess the stress and strain in the walls of the heart—all in a noninvasive way.
24×7: In your expert opinions, what are some of the biggest challenges currently affecting the ultrasound sector? How is the industry working to overcome them?
Skyba: I see two big challenges facing the sector: The first is the adoption of ultrasound over other imaging modalities that radiologists have been more accustomed to using. It really takes a mind-shift for radiologists and clinicians to understand that you can get the same quality images from ultrasound that may have historically been sourced from a CT or MR system. You can now get the same quality images quickly, easily, and in a cost-effective way.
We’re seeing the shift happen quickly in pediatrics—where radiation prohibits excess use of other ionizing imaging technologies. While the use of ultrasound for emergency medicine and point-of-care applications has grown rapidly in the past decade, it’s taking a bit more time to see the shift to ultrasound happen in primary general imaging departments.
The second issue facing the sector is reimbursement. The technology has grown very quickly, and tools are changing the landscape, but it can take a long time for institutions to adapt and establish the right reimbursement structure, which incentivizes physicians to switch to ultrasound. How the industry can help the sector overcome this is by supporting the ultrasound societies and independent advocacy groups who are promoting and educating clinicians in the broader uses of ultrasound.
24×7: Do you have any parting thoughts regarding the ultrasound sector for 24×7 Magazine readers?
Skyba: Overall, ultrasound is an imaging modality that has really ‘come into its own’ in comparison to other imaging technologies. Ultrasound portability allows it to be available to the masses and deliver outstanding imaging detail and diagnostic capabilities, with a small learning curve and reasonable cost. And as the technology continues to evolve, the numbers show it is changing the game and poised to become the dominant technology in the field of medical imaging, globally across the board.