More than 20 million gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopic imaging procedures are performed each year in the United States.  Advances in imaging technology and an increasing prevalence of GI disorders in an aging population will continue to drive growth of these procedures. However, changes in healthcare delivery and increasing cost pressures require clinicians, hospitals, health systems, and the endoscopic imaging industry to think differently about how to manage care and costs across procedures, specialties, disease states, and patient populations.

The field of endoscopic imaging is well positioned in this new era of healthcare to rise to the challenge of improving care while reducing cost. Highly trained physicians and staff and high quality endoscopic imaging equipment are the building blocks of a successful endoscopic imaging unit. However, tools and treatment and workflow protocols that streamline processes, manage data and equipment, improve unit efficiency, reduce unnecessary procedures, and enhance patient outcomes are critical to achieving both clinical and economic success.

Today, clinicians are using the most innovative high definition imaging systems with rigid and flexible endoscopes to see inside the body with unprecedented clarity and detail. New video processors with advanced imaging software, high definition lenses and monitors and zoom magnification within the endoscopes have enabled identification of suspicious tiny lesions that would not have been visible with standard definition endoscopy or other imaging modalities.

The most common endoscopic procedures performed include colonoscopy, a screening tool for the early detection of colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of death in the United States, upper endoscopy for the evaluation of ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and endoscopic ultrasound, which provides highly detailed, enhanced images of the gastrointestinal tract tissue and surrounding organs. These procedures have helped doctors make more informed decisions about the diagnosis and treatment of common GI diseases. They have improved and saved countless lives and have resulted in overall cost savings through detection of disease at earlier stages.

Where Hardware and Software Meet Patient Care

Extraordinary amounts of information may be obtained from high definition endoscopic imaging procedures. Using the latest technology, doctors can detect color, topography, vascularity, length, thickness, and structure of suspicious lesions or diseased tissue. Health systems can determine utilization, equipment performance, adherence to protocols, costs, and clinical trends in their patient population. In health systems, where scores of endoscopic procedures are performed every day, secure and compliant information sharing and the seamless integration of endoscopic equipment and clinical and economic information is critical. Only then can the true clinical and economic value and promise of endoscopic imaging be fulfilled across the range of stakeholders from clinicians to hospital administrators.

In October, PENTAX Medical launched the EC-3490TLi Video Colonoscope (RetroView), the first high definition (HD) video colonoscope that reduces the turn radius by more than 25 percent and increases the angulation of the endoscope to over 210 degrees. The technology is designed to provide the clinician more maneuverability, greater access to challenging areas of the colon, and improve the efficiency of the colonoscopy.

The use of high definition, high resolution technology coupled with retroflexion may result in earlier detection of colon disease by finding and potentially removing polyps that would not have been visible or difficult to see with standard forward or backward viewing. According to a 2011 report on emerging technology by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), a review of colonoscopy studies found a pooled miss rate of 22 percent for all polyps.

On the software side, image management platforms that automate and improve the quality and speed of endoscopic reporting and patient scheduling, enables clinical and operational benchmarking, monitors productivity, streamlines data analysis and manages images. This software platform, combined with state-of-the-art endoscopy systems, inventory management and service solutions, is a powerful enabling tool to drive down unit costs through greater procedural efficiency and utilization of resources.

Customized Service Solutions

It is in the mutual interest of healthcare providers and endoscopic imaging companies to look "beyond the scope" to enhance overall value.

Recently, a health center reported "a spike" in damage to its endoscopes. PENTAX Medical reviewed the historical data on the scope repairs and associated costs, completed an audit of all of the repairs, and were able to identify a trend in the type of damage to the endoscopes. We discovered that 95 percent of the damages were due to improper care and handling during the cleaning and disinfection process. This was a preventable issue that could be addressed through staff training. PENTAX Medical specialists conducted an in-service, completed competency evaluations of each endoscopy technician, and worked with clinical staff to improve the overall handling of the scopes.
We were asked to also evaluate the physical layout of the center including the scope processing room, scope storage area, and procedure rooms, which led to recommendations on how to improve efficiencies, and decrease repairs associated with the storage and transport of the equipment. The center reports that since implementing the recommendations, it has seen substantial cost savings, less equipment downtime, higher physician and staff satisfaction, and greater overall productivity.

The New Definition of Innovation

Innovation in the endoscopic imaging industry today means more than introducing new products. New products must make both clinical and economic sense and existing products must continue to demonstrate value. Clinical pathways and processes must be optimized to allow for the improved collection of data to drive improved patient outcomes and satisfaction, while reducing costs and avoiding waste across the spectrum of endoscopy. Endoscopic imaging companies must move beyond hardware only, generic solution approaches and provide the advanced data capture and integration capabilities necessary to provide relevant historical and predictive analytical data that guide both the clinical and operation success of the clinical users in healthcare delivery today. This is the new definition of innovation, and we must embrace it.

Len Farris is the Vice President of Marketing, Americas for PENTAX Medical, a provider of endoscopic imaging devices and solutions to the global medical community. The company specializes in the development of video and fiber endoscopy equipment for observation, therapeutic and research applications in the GI, ENT and pulmonary fields. For more information about PENTAX Medical visit: