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The business of imaging, beyond TSA scanners

Today’s the day when organizers hope disgruntled travelers will opt out of invasive body scanning in busy airports, as a protest against the security devices that digitally strip down would-be passengers for pre-flight inspection.  (One wonders that, after viewing a few average American bodies, more disgruntled TSA agents aren’t opting out.)

Airport scannersAir-travel controversy aside, billions of human beings every year are more than happy to submit to imaging devices – for fun, for health, for posterity.  As long as scanners are making news, why not take a look at the medical imaging industry in your region and what it means for employment, business development, suppliers, health care and other economic angles.  If you’re looking for a timely careers, technology or workplace story, exploring the local use of imaging equipment in a variety of businesses would make a fun and lively feature.

How about a feature on pills that contain tiny flash cameras; instead of being sedated for endoscopy, patients merely swallow the little capsules.  Virtual colonoscopies are catching on and some studies say they may be even more effective in saving lives than the more invasive methods.  What are some of the medical imaging marvels taking place at your region’s university hospitals or area health care systems?

What about the burgeoning for-profit imaging centers?  A radio ad in my area is offering $89 mammograms to women without health insurance, at a for-profit clinic.  This marketing website, ScanDirectory.com, lists numerous available procedures, ranging from cardiac-specific scans to full-body “virtual physicals.”  A tab leads consumers to a financing company; elsewhere on the site is a “find a doctor” search function you could use to locate practitioners in your market.

There is controversy surrounding the use of medical imaging; check with your state’s public health department and members of the radiology boards at area hospitals regarding issues, concerns and the availability of state-level statistics on the number of procedures performed.

Imaging for amusement — as in the case of 3D obstetrical ultrasounds that can give expectant parents an amazing view of their child-to-be — is another controversial issue; some doctors report feeling pressured into prescribing these expensive tests when they aren’t really medically necessary, because of the “cool factor” of the results.

Rushing in to fill that void are services like Peek A Baby, which offers sonogram packages ranging from $45 to the $190 “Ultimate Peek” two-visit special; judging by the sample images on the website you’d think the camera was right inside the womb.  Gift certificates are available.  A feature about on-demand sonograms as Christmas presents (including DVDs of the scans to mail to far-flung relatives) would be a timely counterpoint to the TSA controversy.

Glance over this report from the Association of Medical Imaging Management (PDF) –  a look at the membership and sponsors list may help you ferret out local members.

On the manufacturing and supply side, medical equipment makers (and service, repair and installation technology) may be a source of jobs and careers. This Thomas.Net directory lists five pages of imaging product makers in the United States; scan it for manufacturers in your region.

And if you really can’t get enough of the topic, here’s a weighty but interesting Kodak white paper (PDF) on the convergence of imaging and information, and what the paper says could lead to a $225 billion industry.

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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