An ultrasound procedure is safe and minimally invasive. Commonly prescribed for a wide range of exams, ultrasounds can be used for:
- Monitoring a mother and her baby during pregnancy
- Displaying blood flow or heart valve function in real time
- Examination of internal organs
- Diagnosing issues with tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles
- Providing real-time imaging in many procedures
Today, ultrasounds are an essential technology in clinical environments. Selecting the right machine can often be an overwhelming choice. With this in mind, we’ve assembled four important tips to make the choice easier.
1) Point of Care, Shared Service, and Application Specific Ultrasounds
There are three basic categories of ultrasound. The point of care, the shared service, and application specific units. These differ in form factor, processing power, software features, and price.
The point of care ultrasound is often the cheapest option and is designed to be mobile and user-friendly. These units can be brought to the patient and help quickly diagnose or rule out a potential issue. Often found in the emergency department of a hospital or in a clinic, the point of care system is an important front-line unit.
Shared service systems are the most versatile ultrasounds. They feature multiple software applications and an extensive variety of available probes. These can be used for applications ranging from OB/GYN to cardiology, and general imaging. Within the shared service platform, there is a wide range of options from an entry level unit to a flagship system. These are ideal for general imaging centers or practices where one machine will support multiple specialties.
Application specific ultrasounds are specially designed for specialty practices. Featuring software and probes tailored to provide excellent image quality and streamline processes, these systems are always in high demand. The most common application packages include:
The “working” portion of ultrasound is its probe and there are a lot of options. The most common types include:
- Phased Array
The various probes have strengths and weaknesses. Linear probes are great to produce high-resolution images near the body’s surface while convex probes use lower frequencies for deep penetration and a wider field of view.
Systems are typically sold with more than one probe, enabling a single unit to perform multiple procedures. It’s best to speak with your clinical staff to get their requirements.
3) Define a Budget
As with any purchase, a cost can often be a deciding factor. New, entry-level ultrasounds, start around $35,000 and premium specialty systems from manufacturers such as Philips or GE can exceed $200,000. To maximize your budget, its best to start with a review of the procedures that will be most commonly performed and select the model to fit your needs.
If cost is an issue, or you want an expanded feature set at a given price point, a refurbished ultrasound may be your best option. Either way, there is a system that will meet your clinical and budgetary requirements.
4) Check for a Warranty and Return Policy
When purchasing new equipment, be sure to inquire about the warranty and return policy. Most manufacturers offer a standard 1-year part and labor warranty while some of the newer entrants in the market are offering coverage for up to 5 years.
The availability of spare parts is another key factor that can hugely affect the usable life of the machine. Some manufacturers will have an official parts list on their website, detailing each individual part that can be purchased separately. Cheaper models will sometimes not have parts readily available, which can somewhat offset the cost savings when a situation arises in which the machine stops functioning correctly, and a replacement part is not readily available.
There are a lot of considerations to be made before buying an ultrasound machine, but there is a unit for you. Starting with our four tips, you’ll quickly narrow down the field and be on your way to purchasing your perfect system. Those tips again are:
- Define the style and type of ultrasound needed for your facility
- Pick the probes specific to your procedures
- Define a budget
- Check for a warranty and return policy