Buying an ultrasound is a big financial investment for many facilities. Some facilities have big budgets and seek the newest, latest, and greatest with all the bells and whistles. Others want higher-end technology but must work within the parameters of a smaller budget.
Fortunately, there are great opportunities out there for both kinds of facilities and a good deal of ultrasound systems from which to choose.
So … where do you start?
1. Determine Your Budget
When beginning a search for new ultrasound equipment, your first step should be determining your budget for ultrasound equipment.
A part of that is understanding the difference between paying cash or leasing. This is essentially the difference between:
- Budgeting for tens of thousands of dollars if paying in full
- Identifying a relatively easy to afford a monthly lease payment
Compare it to buying a car. In most cases, you get more car for your dollar when you lease. Similarly, a lease can help you get more ultrasound machine for your dollar. If you pay cash, you might not be able to come up with that additional $10,000 for the exact system that you want. If you lease, though, that $10,000 is only another $200 per month. This may be as simple as an additional three or four patients per month.
There are some inherent benefits to leasing besides a smaller, more affordable monthly payment. For example, Tax Rule 179 allows you to write off $25,000 of this lease in the first year.
A lease is simply a good business solution, giving you the opportunity to get more machine for your buck, a low monthly payment, the tax break, and more.
2. Identify Your Use Case for the Ultrasound
This might actually be a more important part of the decision process than your budget. I addressed the budget first since many people tend to look at price before any other aspect.
When buying an ultrasound, though, you must know how you intend to use this ultrasound. That’s because not all ultrasounds are built alike. Just because your friend Dr. Smith, the OB/GYN down the street, uses a GE Voluson E8 and loves the image quality doesn’t mean that system is going to work for your cardiology practice.
That’s why identifying your specific use is critical. Are you using the ultrasound for cardiology, vascular, OB/GYN, urology, pain management, or something else? Your answer will help you make the right decision.
3. What Sort of Features, Probes, and Software Features Do You Need?
Once you identify your use, you can get even more refined and begin identifying specific features important to the care you provide.
Some of these special features could include:
- Live baby face imaging
- Auto IMT for vascular, which helps automatically measure the intima
- Speckle reduction imaging
- Advanced speckle reduction imaging
- Spatial compound imaging
… and the list goes on.
As for probes: If you already know what kind of probes you prefer, this would be an important time to document this as well.
Determine your needs vs. your wants. Make sure the system you pick out meets all of your needs and as many wants as your budget allows.
- Needs will be specialty specific; things you cannot do without.
- Your wants will be extras that would be nice if you had but not a deal-breaker if you didn’t.
A need is easy to identify based on the specialty and use required of the system. A want, meanwhile, is more of a personal or business decision. As an example, an OB/GYN specialty needs a 2D Convex and an endo-cavity transducer but WANTS a 3D/4D convex. This office can do without the 3D/4D but they would like to consider having it and offering it as an added value to their patients. Another want could be the live baby face software to go along with their 4D technology transducer.
Step 1 of the selection process: identify the system with every need and every want.
Step 2 in the selection process: identify the system that has every need but none of the wants.
Step 3 in the selection process will be to identify the system that has a nice balance of needs and wants.
This could be one ultrasound system with multiple configurations or multiple ultrasound systems, each with a different strength as to the specific configurations.
The primary goal is to fit the best system for your particular need, balanced with as many wants as the budget can accommodate. Remember: Selecting a lease option makes it easier to afford more ultrasound system for a relatively small monthly investment amount.
Arriving at answers to the ultrasound questions posed here might confuse you or otherwise be beyond your knowledge. This is just one reason why selecting a reliable, trustworthy company for support is so important. They will help you find the right ultrasound with the right configuration to meet your specific need.
4. Decide If You Want a Portable Ultrasound Machine
At this point, you have identified how you are going to use the ultrasound, the probes you want, and the features you need. Now is the time to determine if a portable machine, as opposed to a stationary console, is the right choice.
When making a decision about a portable machine, ask yourself one question:
Are you going to use the ultrasound outside of the office? If so, then a portable/mobile ultrasound machine is the right answer.
And if you are planning to take the ultrasound out of the office, is it to go between two offices or are you going to use this ultrasound on mobile screening routes or in nursing homes, health fairs, or multiple offices (more than two)?
We want to be better able to identify the full use pattern of this ultrasound. If the ultrasound will be transported between two offices, it might be best to look at acquiring two systems or two carts.
The primary focus of the portable vs. console ultrasound debate comes down to features and image quality. It is true that there are some very nice portable systems available with very impressive image quality. However, not all portables are built to these standards; most times, you will sacrifice image quality for portability.
A portable ultrasound will:
- Typically not have the same image quality and probe selection as a console ultrasound
- Usually offers limited software features and options as compared to an ultrasound console
- Require you to use a small keyboard and monitor
- Feature almost the same footprint as a console ultrasound, in most cases requiring the use of a cart
If you need to be mobile, the portable ultrasound is the best choice for you. But if you were considering a portable ultrasound (laptop style) because you think it has a smaller footprint, you might want to think again. The two images below are a portable ultrasound on a cart and a smaller console ultrasound. Note that the footprint of the two is nearly identical.
If you’re okay limiting the users in your office to a small keyboard and monitor, as well as other limited options, look at the portable solution. Most will determine that it is better to go with a console.
5. Calculate a Lease Amount
A lease amount is always based on the individual approval and credit score. However, an easy rule to use when considering a standard lease (60 months) is to multiply $20 for every $1000 of cost. When you run into a situation where you want everything in Step #1 of section 3 above — with all of your needs and wants — you may find yourself with an ultrasound selection $10,000 to $20,000 more than your cash (purchase) budget can withstand. With a lease for $10,000, you will see an additional $200 (more or less) of monthly investment needed, which in practical terms may only be three or four patient scans per month. There are multiple ways to achieve that.
If you were to pay cash, you may not be able to come up with the extra dollars and would have to settle on your needs and potentially sacrifice your wants.
The Expertise You Need
To discuss ultrasound systems, contact Jeff Rubinoff at Complete Medical Services.
For further detail regarding other imaging equipment, contact Complete Medical Services’ President, Tony Orlando.