Editor's Note: ITN partnered with Paragon Consulting Partners on an audience survey to learn more on how the virtual format is impacting your decision to attend. This article by Laurie Lafleur summarizes those results.
In the radiology world autumn leaves and the approach of thanksgiving remind us that the Radiological Society of North America’s (RSNA) annual meeting is just around the corner!
This year, however, things are going to be different. Like other conferences before it, RSNA 2020 has gone virtual. While in previous years many would have all been busily planning and packing for another year in action-packed Chicago, this year it seems like the majority aren’t sure what to think. How will the experience differ? Can the same objectives regarding vendor evaluation and procurement be achieved in this new format? Will there be an opportunity for social networking?
While innovation in the imaging world continues to grow (CAGR of 5.8% reaching $53B by 2026),1 driven largely by the increasing health demands of an aging population and the continued adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), interest in attending capstone events highlighting the latest and greatest innovations in the industry is waning.
In partnership with Imaging Technology News, we collected feedback from more than 100 diagnostic imaging professionals including healthcare executives, radiology and IT leaders, radiologists, technologists, clinicians, and industry vendors regarding their perspective of the new virtual format, whether they’re attending, and if so what they’re hoping to get out of it. The results are in!
Who’s attending RSNA 2020?
This year there will be strong participation from the vendor community (38%), followed by provider organizations including Health Systems/HIEs/IDNs (17%), Independent Hospitals (13%), physician groups (10%), and a small percentage of outpatient imaging centers (5%) and teleradiology networks (1%). This distribution is similar to previous years.
The majority of attendees fall into front-line roles including practicing radiologists (22%) and technologists (15%), which is indicative of the importance of experience from the ‘trenches’ and the level of influence retained by such stakeholders within their organizations. Representation at the leadership level included CEOs (7%) with clinical (5%) and IT (5%) departmental leadership close behind. Interestingly, there was no reported representation from other executive leadership roles including CIOs, CMOs, and CMIOs, which could be indicative of lowered expectations, shifting priorities related to the pandemic and time constraints.
What’s driving the decision to attend?
73% of respondents indicated that they have attended RSNA semi-regularly in past years (either annually or occasionally).
Figure 1: How frequently have you attended RSNA in the past?
More than half of respondents in both categories indicated that the pandemic has significantly impacted their decision to attend the show with 22% and 38% (annually and occasionally, respectively) indicating that they do not plan to attend this year’s virtual event.
Of those who attended annually, 58% were industry vendors, whereas the majority (65%) of occasional attendees were represented by health systems/HIEs, independent hospitals, and outpatient imaging centers. This indicates that while there continues to be a strong commitment to the show by industry vendors, healthcare providers aren’t as convinced that the new format will bring the same experience and value as previous in-person events.
In fact, the resounding reason for not attending across all respondents was the perception that the virtual format would not be able to sufficiently replace an in-person experience (79%), and subsequently the lack of social networking opportunities (29%) and perceived value for investment (25%).
Figure 2: Why did you choose not to attend this year's event?
Of those planning to attend 70% indicated that they had fewer goals and expectations of this year’s event compared to previous shows (63%), or that they had changed their approach completely (7%) noting significantly reduced expectations for the exhibit hall and the likelihood that time outside of sessions normally spent walking the exhibit hall would instead be spent on day-to-day work tasks.
Figure 3: How has the virtual format changed your goals or expectations for the show?
Attending sessions and collecting CME credits has become a leading driver for attendance compared to previous years, with 79% of healthcare provider attendees indicating plans to participate.
Despite diminished expectations 68% of healthcare provider attendees intend to visit the technical exhibit, although more than half (58%) indicated that they believe it will be more difficult to identify vendors offering relevant and viable solutions that would be possible at an in-person event.
Figure 4: Are you planning to visit the technical exhibit?
What are the top trends for RSNA 2020?
By aggregating the responses to questions related to continuing education (CE) topics of interest, active shopping plans for the technical exhibit, and what new innovations/technologies and associated applications respondents were most excited to see at this year’s show we were able to identify 5 key trends for RSNA 2020 (which we will expand upon in the following sections):
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have crossed the chasm
- Provider satisfaction is a growing concern
- Despite troubling times procurement seems strong
- Fewer heads are in the cloud this year
- What didn’t make the list?
Trend #1: AI and ML have crossed the chasm
Once again AI and ML were by far the most popular topics identified by attendees for both the technical exhibit and scientific sessions. What’s different this year is that 48% of respondents indicated that they were actively shopping for these solutions — which is a stark increase from previous years when AI and ML had a more academic focus.
Whereas in previous years interest in AI was largely focused on improving workflow efficiency and satisfaction scores, this year interest is much broader — extending to analytics, diagnostic and quality related use cases, indicating that it has crossed the chasm from early adopter stages to more mainstream applications across a variety of healthcare provider organizations.
Trend #2: Provider satisfaction is a growing concern
While provider burnout and satisfaction has been a top-of-mind topic in previous years, it has taken a much more prominent role this year due to the impact that the pandemic has had on health system capacity and workflow efficiency.
In particular, a primary focus of CE session attendance was learning how to re-optimize clinical workflows to accommodate the shifting demand for care services due to COVID-19, how emerging technologies (imaging modalities, techniques and AI applications) can help to more effectively diagnose and follow COVID-19 patients and reduce the burden on imaging service providers, and strategies for addressing decreasing staff morale and patient confidence amid flooded ERs, inpatient units and ICUs.
Trend #3: Despite troubling times procurement seems strong
Even though pandemic-related lockdowns took a toll on many imaging operations, there appears to be budgets allocated to the procurement of new technologies.
Once again imaging modalities are the most popular among RSNA shoppers this year, with 43% of respondents noting that they are actively shopping for new modalities. PACS replacements and enterprise imaging platforms remain consistent at 19% and 23% of shoppers, respectively.
Interest in cardiovascular systems (CVIS) at this traditionally radiology-focused event has grown compared to previous years, likely driven to cardiology’s position as a revenue center in most hospital organizations and the increasing consolidation of radiology and cardiovascular imaging technologies within the vendor community.
Perhaps the most notable changes in buyer behavior to watch for this year include the shift from interest to intent when it comes to AI procurement, with 42% of shoppers actively looking to purchase these technologies. As well, point-of-care and mobile devices have gained traction, with nearly 20% of respondents indicating interest in adding these to their imaging portfolios.
Trend #4: Fewer heads are in the cloud this year
Somewhat unexpectedly, cloud-hosted solutions demonstrated a lack of interest among active shoppers, appearing on only 13% of respondents’ shopping lists, and not appearing at all on lists related to CE topics of interest or exciting new innovations. This is a surprising result, given the continued pressure on healthcare organizations to operationalize budgets and reduce cost, and eludes to lingering uncertainty regarding the technical, operational, or economic feasibility of vendor-managed infrastructure, systems and data within the industry at large.
Cloud technology has become a standard data model in many other industries, and offers several advantages including reduced operational complexity and capital expense and improved redundancy and security. Many vendors have invested significantly in the past few years to evolve their cloud-hosted and managed services offerings, now able to support fully hosted models that in some cases can deliver performance and reliability that is similar to on-premise models.
The lack of interest this year could be related to reduced operating budgets that may not align with the sometimes higher price-points associated with vendor-managed services. However, it could also be indicative of increased risk aversion and the desire to insulate operations to protect against further disruptions in the wake of COVID-19.
Trend #5: What didn’t make the list?
One topic that did not get much traction in the survey is analytics. It is unclear whether the lack of response is due to the survey framework or if there is truly a lack of interest in the topic and solutions. The radiology space continues to mature in its design, deployment and integration of solutions that measure and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) related to clinical outcomes, operations, workflow efficiency, and software and hardware performance. There continues to be progress made both with vendors providing embedded solutions as well as third party, vendor-agnostic offerings with this space.
Image sharing is also conspicuously absent from the top-of-mind for attendees. This may also be due to the ongoing implementation of solutions over the past several years. Top performing vendors in this vertical continue to grow and expand their platform capabilities and integrations. Many healthcare organizations continue to struggle with multiple concurrent sharing platforms as well as image ingestion and sharing methods. Industry adoption of image sharing is still behind the maturity curve and thus the indicators of this survey may not accurately reflect attendees’ interest.
Without question, the RSNA experience is going to be different this year. Not only will there be fewer in attendance, those who are planning to attend are doing so with lower expectations.
For healthcare providers, CE and scientific sessions are a top priority and likely won’t suffer as much from the virtual model. In fact, it is possible that this aspect of the show experience may be improved given the possibility for session recordings to be posted and made available on-demand, allowing attendees to avoid schedule conflicts and take-in their topics of interest as time permits.
However, for the technical exhibit it remains to be seen whether a positive experience can be achieved, and value derived for buyers and vendors alike. In this area expectations are very low among attendees of all profiles, and it will be interesting to see the new and creative methods vendors come up with to generate awareness about their new solutions, conduct effective demonstrations and solidify sales for 2021.
From an innovation perspective, the increased need to drive increase the capacity of imaging services, drive workflow efficiency, and ensure staff and patient safety during to the pandemic have placed an increased emphasis on AI, mobile point-of-care devices, and initiatives focused on reducing burnout and improving the provider experience. This will likely continue well into 2021, with many applications and efficiencies persisting much longer.
Are you hoping to explore the technical exhibit this year? Need some help navigating the new virtual format? The Paragon Consulting Partners team has decades of hands-on experience in clinical, technical, and business imaging IT settings and can help you make the most out of your time at RSNA 2020. Contact us to schedule a personalized tour with one of our experts — we’ll help you identify the technologies that best align with your immediate needs and strategic goals. We can help you ask all the right questions, so you walk away informed and ready to tackle your imaging strategy for 2021 and beyond. For more information or to schedule a personalized tour, contact Paragon at 916-382-8934.