Published on the June 21, 2012, DiagnosticImaging.com website
By Whitney L.J. Howell
If you’re looking to add another CT or MRI machine to your imaging suite or you need to replace one that will no longer pass muster under accreditation, you’re likely juggling the question of whether to buy a refurbished machine.
Acquiring refurbished versions of these machines is a growing trend as practices and facilities grapple with concerns over decreasing reimbursement or consider the possibility of future consolidations. Technology advancements over the past five years — and the desire of some larger facilities to purchase the most up-to-date machines — have made CT and MRI machines increasingly available for refurbishment. These machines are best suited for refurbishment, although some less-expensive equipment — mainly ultrasounds — account for solid portion of pre-owned equipment purchases.
“You can get really high-end, latest-technology equipment for refurbishment after five years,” said Sabine Duffy-Sandstrom, vice president of Refurbished Systems (U.S.) at Siemens Healthcare. “That’s why CTs and MRIs are the leading modalities in refurbishment. Facilities tend to keep other machines, such as angiography, for a much longer time.”
An Increase in Demand
If health care reform passes U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny this month, the industry anticipates approximately 37 million new patients will have access to clinical services. It’s possible this uptick will translate into a 14 percent jump in diagnostic imaging utilization, according to a recent study based on Kaiser Permanente data from imaging consultant firm Regents Health Resources in Tennessee.
As a result, Regents president Brian Baker predicted imaging centers could run an additional half-million scans during the next decade, meaning you must find a way to meet the increase in demand. The good news, he said, is that you don’t always have to purchase a new, $1.5 million machine.
“You have to take a look at the entire market. The most advanced technology might be a 3T MRI machine, but you don’t necessary need it to accommodate your patient base or the kinds of exams your referring physicians are ordering,” Baker said. “Often, we recommend refurbished equipment because it’s so much better and faster than what they already have and it will help them better meet the standards of care without carrying the larger price.”
The Refurbishing Process
It could be tempting to think of a refurbished machine simply as a used one with a proverbial new paint job. But that’s not accurate, Siemens’ Duffy-Sandstrom said.
“Everyone tends to use the word refurbished,” she said. “So, when facilities are looking to buy not-new equipment, it’s very important to understand the differences between refurbished and used, especially with the concerns about lowest dose and CT scanners.”
According to Duffy-Sandstrom, Siemens follows a five-step process when refurbishing equipment. First, the refurbishment team considers the machine’s age, performance, and service history. They also check whether the machine’s software and hardware can be upgraded and if service parts will be available for the next five years. Next, the team de-installs the machine and ships it back to a Siemens factory in its original packaging.
Machines are cleaned, disinfected, and painted; worn parts are replaced; hardware and software updates are installed; and the machine is reset to new customer specifications, she said. After passing a final check, refurbished machines receive a quality seal.
The same Siemens team re-installs the machine, which carries the same warranty as a new machine, with the new customer and provides standard training.
Other companies, such as Philips and GE Healthcare, also refurbish their machines. Philips’ five-step process is similar to what Siemens offers, and it focuses on bringing a wide range of modalities to customers looking to purchase updated machines on a budget, said Jim Moran, director of equipment remarketing for Philips Healthcare for North America.
On the other hand, purchasing a used machine from a third-party retailer is an option. There is no hazard to doing so, Moran said, but all updating processes are not created equal. It’s akin to purchasing a used car — you must choose from what the dealer has on the lot.
“Not everyone can access the proper software and safety upgrades for all machines,” he said. “This is a big investment so you want to make sure the refurbisher has sound processes. My guidance to clients is to go to the facility, oversee the process, and be mindful of whether the equipment looks new and has been brought up to current industry specifications.”
To read the remainder of the article at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/content/article/113619/2085269?pageNumber=1