Boom or Bust: What Does Our Aging Population Mean for Medical Imaging


Medical Imaging Technologies May Be Affected by the Aging of the Baby Boomers from Medical Imaging Talk Blog.Baby Boomers are not a homogeneous group, so predicting their effect on medical imaging technologies as they enter old age is a tricky proposition. One thing seems certain — in the near term, radiology services will be in greater demand.

A 2013 report by business intelligence firm IHS, published in Health Affairs, predicts an 18 percent rise in demand for radiology services by 2025, third in line behind vascular surgery (31 percent rise) and cardiology (20 percent rise).

After that, the picture is murkier. The majority of older Baby Boomers led less healthy lives than the younger ones, so they’re expected to suffer from conditions related to smoking and obesity (diabetes, heart disease, lung cancer). This may be less true for Boomers now entering their 50s, in which case we’re likely to see people living long enough to wear out their joints and, possibly, implanted joints.

There are things experts agree on, however, including some with significant opportunities for medical imaging technologies.

  • Boomers are likely to be more informed about healthcare than past generations, to seek a second or third opinion, and to share a bad experience. Medical imaging departments would do well to address customer experience issues early and often.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association predicts as many as 16 million people aged 65 and older will be living with the disease (AD) by 2050. Radiology could play a key role in early identification of the disease. There are payment issues related to AD imaging (CMS covers one PET scan to exclude AD, and only for patients in specific clinical studies). However, as treatments are developed, those barriers may shrink or dissolve.
  • Boomers have greater expectations about life in their later years, tending to be more active and concerned with quality of life. That means they’re more likely to seek image-guided minimally invasive procedures and joint replacements. The latter could bring opportunities such as arthritis detection imaging and imaging the early complications of arthroplasty to help determine the need for reoperation.
  • If more research is done on treatments, medical imaging technologies could be useful in early detection of cartilage degeneration.
  • There is important work being done with interventional radiology for prostate issues, including replacing surgery with prostate artery embolization.
  • Another promising area involves using polymeric devices instead of balloon kyphoplasty to treat osteoporosis.

Finally, experts are weighing in on medical imaging technologies’ potential role in cost containment, and these debates will likely intensify as Boomers age. It’s generally accepted that by developing and improving minimally invasive treatments, interventional radiology can have a significant affect on overall costs from surgery.

Less controversial is the idea that medical imaging could have a major effect on overall population health management, helping delay or prevent the progression of key diseases and lowering the cost of care as a whole.

Learn more about McKesson enterprise medical imaging solutions on our web site.

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