The European market for digital radiography (DR) systems has more than doubled since 2000. From $51.6 million, DR revenues jumped to $114.4 million in 2003. While strong regional variations persist in terms of uptake levels, speed and manner of penetration and motivations for purchase, the overall market is projected to continue expanding. Growing at a sedate annual average of 7.7 per cent between 2003 and 2010, the total market is forecast to reach $192.3 million.
Pioneering the adoption of digital imaging technologies were the northern European countries, particularly Scandinavia, Belgium and the Netherlands. Quickly following suit were a second wave of highly developed countries including Germany, France and the United Kingdom. At present, over 80 per cent of DR sales currently derive from these early adopters.
Digital Radiography is only now making inroads into countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece. And while prices still remain fairly prohibitive for the vast majority of providers in Europe, there are indications that select facilities in some eastern European countries are committed to upgrading their outdated equipment with DR systems.
Similar to the North American experience, DR technology in Europe is gradually set to broaden from traditional early-adopter facilities to mid-market purchasers. Another point of similarity has been the complementary positioning of DR within the clinical environment to existing computing radiography and analogue X-ray installations.
However, the market penetration profile for DR in Europe differs from North America. Frost & Sullivan Medical Imaging Industry Analyst Antonio García (http://MedicalDevices.frost.com) comments, "For the most part, facilities that adopt DR in Europe already have a sophisticated digital image management system in place (such as PACS), or else they purchase DR as part of their overall plan for PACS implementation."
There are, however, exceptions to this trend. "Many eastern European countries are experiencing substantial economic growth, enabling them to invest greater resources into developing their mostly outmoded medical imaging infrastructure, and they are investing in digital solutions even in the absence of a PACS or digital image management strategy," adds Mr. García.
The European installed base is expected to quadruple between 2003 and 2010, exhibiting double-digit growth rates. Initially, most of the installed base growth is likely to occur in the more industrialised countries of northern and western Europe followed by rising growth in southern and eastern Europe.
For the industrialised countries, particularly Scandinavia, DR is considered key to the long-term strategy of achieving filmless operation. In less-industrialised countries, DR is regarded as a high-throughput alternative to analogue X-ray and a means to cutting incremental costs in film and consumables. In both regions, however, DR is identified as a powerful tool to control radiography-related expenditures.
Unit shipments are poised to register an annual average growth rate of 12.4 per cent over the 2003-2010 period. Demand for DR systems is set to derive primarily from Germany, Scandinavia, the Benelux countries and the United Kingdom. Lower levels of demand are forecast for France, Italy and Spain. With the notable exception of Poland, Hungary and Romania, demand from eastern European countries is set to be even lower.
Aggressive competition characterises the market with nearly 15 DR vendors fighting over an extremely limited pool of unit sales. However, the number of competitors is expected to dwindle even as annual unit sales are forecast to register rapid growth.
Swissray has ceded its once dominant position to the three major global DR vendors: Philips Medical Systems, Siemens Medical Solutions and GE Medical Systems. In 2003, this troika accounted for over three-quarters of the European DR market.
"Little threat is posed by the entrance of new companies. The barriers to entry are formidable, with the high cost of building a manufacturing facility, acquiring components and expertise and high marketing costs," says Mr. García.
"In fact, the European market could experience significant consolidation in coming years as additional companies exit the DR market due to intense competition from the dominant vendors."