"Carefully optimistic" was the phraseemost used when reporting on U.S. consumer spending this past holiday season. I believe, along with most of the vendors I spoke with at the recent RSNA, that this also holds true for the radiology and imaging informatics market.
The word from exhibitors at the December conference in Chicago was that there are more customers that appear willing to invest in new technologies and systems. The attendance at RSNA was up slightly from last year, a welcomed and very positive sign. In a nod to the reality of the times, I also found exuberance and extravagance of prior meetings toned down, both on and off the show floor.
On the healthcare IT front, the most significant event of 2010 was the definition of Stage 1 requirements for the Meaningful Use of electronic health record implementations. There is no question that this will stimulate the long-awaited adoption of EHR technology in offices and clinics. The wild-card still in the deck is the role that personal health records will play. I don't think players such as Google, Microsoft, and others truly understand this market—although they are ramping up by hiring several veterans from the industry.
Another event that might have escaped notice this past year is an increased effort by the FDA to regulate medical devices. This has shown up in an enhanced level of concern for PACS, requiring more thorough documentation when filing for FDA approval. In addition, the review process for medical devices has become significantly longer and more difficult.
The FDA is also responding to the growing importance of manufacturing overseas. It has opened an office in China staffed nearly 100 officials. These people can visit any registered medical device manufacturer in that country and demand an audit of the quality system, as well as policies and procedures.
In conclusion, I believe that most of us are glad to put 2010 behind and are looking forward to 2011. The signs are good, with new technology, IT, and regulatory developments and the industry—in general—is carefully optimistic in its prospects. I wish all of you a happy new year and all the best.