Buying an ultrasound machine for your practice can be a tricky venture and many practitioners who are unaware of the technical nuts and bolts of ultrasound devices may actually waste their money during the process of buying their equipment. Although it is impossible to cover all the technical details of ultrasound machines in a few lines, it is possible to discuss the factors that should shape your choice, when you plan to buy ultrasound equipment.
Identifying the purpose of purchase
Different medical specialties employ ultrasound devices for a variety of different purposes. From needle guidance to fetal sex determination – ultrasound machines play their role. If you want it for Obstetrics/Gynecology, you requirements will be different; if you want it for use in Cardiology, you may require different functions and features. It is therefore important that as a first step, the specific purpose for which you require an ultrasound machine be identified.
Identifying your desired functions / features
Ultrasound machines come with a variety of software options, functions and features. You may hear words like 3D, 4D, Speckle Reduction Imaging, Spatial Compound Imaging etc. It is always good to learn about these special features; but you should be careful before investing into such features. Generally speaking,
More special features = More price
If you plan to capitalize on these special features, you should know how much your clients are willing to pay you for such features. E.g. buying a machine that provides “Baby Face Imaging”, for a hospital where patients are hardly able to pay for simple ultrasound, does not makes much sense.
Similarly, ultrasound machines come with different probes. Investing some time to learn about the available probes is always beneficial.
Portability of Ultrasound machines
Ultrasound equipment has become extremely diverse and machines of different sizes are available in the market. Two broad categories in this regard are the ‘Console Ultrasound Machines’ and the ‘Portable Ultrasound Machines’.
Depending upon the nature of your practice, you will have to decide whether you need a portable machine or a console.
Portable machines are easy to carry and suitable for practitioners who are mobile and provide their services outside their office in different settings. If you are planning to use your portable machine in multiple offices, you have the option of buying a single machine with multiple carts. Most ultrasound-guided interventions are carried out using a portable ultrasound machine. Color Doppler ultrasound is usually a standard feature in most ‘better-quality’ portable machines.
However, most portable machines have some limitations. These include low image quality, limited software features & functions, limited number of probes and smaller display size. If these limitations do not bother you much; a portable machine should be chosen. In the other case, Console Ultrasound Machines are the best, since they provide you a complete package, full of features, excellent quality images and a variety of probes to make your work easier.
New, Refurbished or Second Hand Ultrasound Equipment
Although buying brand new equipment is the best solution to your problems; many buyers around the world are incapable of doing so. A simple solution for them is to buy used or refurbished equipment from a reliable source.
For the same amount of money, the following equations give an idea;
$10000 = New Ultrasound Machine (Newer model + satisfactory features + good aftersales service)
$10000 = Refurbished Ultrasound Machine (Older model + equivalent or better features + No or limited aftersales service)
Do you maths!
Although most people consider this to be the first factor that affects their choice when making a purchase, this in fact comes after the above-mentioned factors. The first thing to consider is your plan of payment. Are you ready to make full payment for your desired equipment? If not, an alternative is to ‘lease’ the equipment (depending upon your local laws & the available banking/fiscal facilities). A comparison of both options should enable you to make a clear decision regarding payment. Generally speaking, those who intend to get better features and up-to-date technology opt for leasing; others prefer to pay in lump sum.
Choosing the best Ultrasound Machine
It is impossible to choose the best ultrasound machine; yes that’s true! However, it is possible to choose the most suitable machine that meets most of your needs. A good idea is to make a list of your desired features and functions, and then try to align them with the available features in different ultrasound systems (your budget will play a major role here). This will enable you to choose the most suitable machine for use in the future.
Technical support, Spare-parts and other consumables
Make sure consumables and spare-parts of your desired machine are freely available in your local market. Every machine requires spare-parts and if they are not available, your purchased machine may fail to function. Ask the seller about spare-parts availability; some sellers also supply spare-parts. This may be beneficial in some cases; but in case your seller is the sole provider of your desired spare-parts, s/he may sell the parts at higher prices.