As the healthcare industry faces pressure to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs, clinicians are turning to ultrasound for a more cost-effective, real-time, and patient-friendly imaging alternative.
When looking to purchase a new system – whether it be to replace an outdated ultrasound machine or purchase your first system – many factors should be considered. You’ll want to choose the best system for your practice, staff, exam types, and budget. Considering the average life span of an ultrasound machine is around seven years, we understand that this is a big decision and one that will directly impact you and your team’s day-to-day workflow for years to come.
Mindray offers a comprehensive suite of innovative, leading-edge, accessible ultrasound machines across many specialties and departments ranging from Emergency Medicine to Radiology to Physician Offices and more. The list below encompasses the top considerations across a wide range of ultrasound applications and uses. The top needs will differ broadly between departments and specialties; however, from our experience and clinician feedback, these are some of the top considerations.
When looking to purchase an ultrasound machine, here are the top considerations to keep in mind to help you make an informed decision:
Image quality and image-enhancing feature sets are typically top of mind when looking for a new ultrasound machine. The quality of the image directly impacts patient care, so it is important that you select a system that provides the quality you need to arrive at the appropriate diagnoses.
Most ultrasound systems come equipped with some level of exam automation. Exam automation software can help ensure that every exam is fully complete by walking the user through the images and measurements they need to acquire. This helps to standardize exams regardless of the clinician and can help reduce repeat exams and additional testing.
In evaluating these workflows, you’ll want to determine what exam types are available for automation, as this may vary between systems. You will also want to walk through the available protocols and see if they can be adjusted or customized to adhere to your practice standards or to capture the specific workflows that each department/physician requires.
Ease of Use
Ease of use for physicians is essential when looking to purchase an ultrasound machine. Typically, in the Point of Care (POC) environment, being able to quickly arrive at a decision is of the utmost importance. POC environments include Emergency Departments, Urgent Care, Critical Care, and more. Being able to rapidly triage, diagnose, and treat is essential in POC environments due to the heightened severity associated with these patients.
For Radiology environments, sonographers typically value how easy it is to get a ploppable image – meaning they can place a transducer on a patient and easily capture the images they need for the exam.
Ergonomics tend to be a big consideration for sonographers who typically scan patients all day long. Today, 80–95% of sonographers experience work‐related pain, 90% experience this pain for more than half their career, and one in five sonographers sustain a career-ending work‐related injury1. When looking for an ergonomic system, consider the following:
- How easy is it to position the monitor?
- Does the system have a fully articulating monitor so the screen can be adjusted to an optimal viewing angle in any environment?
- Is the system fully adjustable for seated or standing use?
- How many active transducer ports are available?
- Is programmable-button transducer technology available?
- What cable management options are there to prevent dragging, cable fatigue, tripping hazards, and reduce contamination?
Total Cost of Ownership
As hospitals and providers are challenged to provide better care at lower costs, ultrasound as a modality continues to increase in popularity to meet these demands. When looking at price, it is imperative to look at the total cost of the system over its lifespan, not just the purchase price. In the total cost of ownership, you should also factor in key costs, including system warranty, service, training, and technology upgrades.
Ease of disinfection is critical to keep your staff and patients healthy and your ultrasound systems running at peak performance. Some systems require a specialized disinfection process or can only be disinfected with certain products. You will want to inquire about this and determine if you can easily source the disinfectant required. You may also want to request to see the disinfection process during a demo to see how time-consuming or cumbersome it may be. Some systems, particularly Point of Care Ultrasound Systems (POCUS) have unique designs to reduce the time it takes to properly disinfect a system.
The overall performance and portability of a system are key. You want an ultrasound machine that can provide superb image quality, tools that can enable you to improve workflow and exam times and reduce the need for rescans. Depending on how you plan to use the system, you may also need to consider how long a system can run on battery power alone and how long it takes for the system to boot up. A portable ultrasound system can help improve patient throughput due to the system’s mobility and small footprint, allowing clinicians to perform exams at the bedside.
It’s essential to look at the warranty coverage, availability of parts, and service timeframes for parts when your system needs service to ensure you select the system that best fits your overall needs.
When medical equipment breaks down, there are clinical implications and negative effects on workflow and productivity. In addition, loss of revenue from decreased patient throughput can wreak havoc on budgets. When evaluating providers of ultrasound solutions, look for companies that have a robust, vertically integrated production model. This helps to ensure they have more control over the quality for every aspect of the system as well as improve overall efficiency to give you peace of mind that the products are safe, effective, and reliable.
Technology is constantly changing in order to adapt to an evolving environment. Studies of historic data from legacy software systems have identified three specific causes of this change: namely software maintenance, architectural evolution, and software re-engineering. That means that without regular software enhancements, an ultrasound machine may become technologically obsolete. Ultrasound updates, software fixes, and enhancements may cost an average of $10,000 per system annually, making an affordable system or set of systems unmanageable in the long run. When selecting an ultrasound that will fit your needs, you need to ensure that the system has the technology you need today and a solution to help you get the technology and upgrades you may need tomorrow.
When examining the available options on an ultrasound machine, you want to look for the features and tools you will utilize most. Many companies offer specific systems and packages for specialties – such as Point of Care, Critical Care, Private Practice, Women’s Health, Pediatrics, Radiology, etc. When looking at the available features, be sure to see if the system can have features or technologies added onto the system later, as your needs and exam types may change. Some features to look for include a wide breadth of transducers, Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound (CEUS), Shearwave Elastography, 3D/4D imaging, AI tools, workflow enhancing tools, and productivity tools.
When buying a new ultrasound machine, you’ll want to find a partner who will be there for you when you need them. You’ll want to look into their support and service model and see if these are included with the cost of the system or separate. You also want to see how long it will take for them to respond to any service and sales requests. Another key aspect is a company’s reputation and ability to adapt. You want a partner who can take your feedback and requests and turn them into actions – you want a partner who lives and breathes healthcare, just like you, so you don’t have to worry about where their focus, passion, or interests lie.
For many in the healthcare world, ultrasound has become the first and last imaging modality of choice when caring for their patients. With this increasing reliance on ultrasound, you want to be sure that your ultrasound systems are up to the challenge of this new normal. When ultrasound systems go down, it can negatively impact workflow, delay patient care, and lead to lower patient satisfaction. Having the right ultrasound partner can provide you with peace of mind and increased confidence in your technology. Mindray offers innovative, leading-edge, accessible ultrasound solutions that empower you to provide the highest quality of care now and in the future. Experience peace of mind and see something better with Mindray ultrasound.