Healthcare digital imaging market to grow by 75 per cent

Datamonitor study details how picture archiving and communication systems sector to be worth $8.6 billion by 2011.

Digital imaging in healthcare is set to grow by 75 per cent to $8.6 billion by 2011, according to a study by Datamonitor.

The market for picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) in health care in Europe and North America is currently worth about $4.9 billion.

PACS are used to manage medical images, such as x-rays, instead of keeping hard copy images on film.

The steady growth in North America, the UK and Nordic countries has been off the back of the popularity of the technology with the people who are actually using it, said the study's author, Justin Davidson.

"Clinicians are onside - once they experience it, they do the love the technology and see its benefits," said Davidson. "PACS is something people can see and feel the benefits."

The technology is popular because it reduces clinical errors and improve treatment times. Digital images can be sharpened or otherwise modified on a computer, so muddy images can still be used without retakes. PACS also allow clinicians to access the images anywhere the system is in place, at the bedside or a patient on a portable computer or across the country.

Because of this, clinicians have pushed the technology into areas other than radiology, which should also help drive the market's growth, said Davidson. PACS are also now being used for areas like dermatology, where photos help doctors keep better track of skin conditions, as well as cardiology.

The technology is now moving into other sectors, including academic research and pharmaceutical firms, Davidson said.

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