Objective: Changes in regulations and improvements in reimbursement have propelled positron emission tomography (PET) into clinical use, making it increasingly important to understand the costs of this emerging service. Cost analyses are important tools to do this. Data published previously on these topics reflect assumptions that are no longer valid. The aim of this study was to determine the cost of developing and operating a PET facility and to evaluate whether a regional cyclotron serving several scanners reduces costs.
Materials and methods: Financial data were collected on capital expense and global operating costs through interviews with industry experts, evaluation of prior studies, and review of expenses incurred at the University of Southern California PET center. A data model and cost templates were developed. Expenses were allocated either to the production or purchase of radiopharmaceuticals or to the provision of the PET scan, and the cost per procedure was determined. A sensitivity analysis was performed on the net present value for key parameters.
Results: A cyclotron serving a single scanner is not financially viable. The radiopharmaceutical distribution configurations were financially sound. In these cases, the cost of the radiopharmaceutical was approximately $700 per dose with modest levels of production (12 doses per day). In addition, the average cost of PET scans (technical scan and professional charges) ranged from approximately $900 to $1400. The critical factor for profitability was shown to be throughput.
Conclusion: This analysis provides significant insight into the cost of PET and the comparative costs of offering PET through four operating configurations. Reductions in equipment prices, increased availability of radiopharmaceuticals, growth in demand, and improvements in reimbursement have all contributed to the financial viability of this imaging technique.