How to find the best value for X-ray and imaging equipment

Experts offer straightforward advice

Every clinic has its druthers when it comes to X-ray and imaging equipment, and there is no shortage of reasons why one type of equipment or a specific brand is selected over another.

Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Wash., uses Canon CXDI-501G Digital Radiography System, according to Robyn Hauser, DVM, DABVP (Canine and Feline), Banfield’s senior manager of medical programs.

“We continue to find success with digital imaging,” Dr. Hauser said. “Our hospitals are able to capture quality images that enable faster patient diagnoses than manual film processing, allow us to easily store and share digital files with clients and specialists, and eliminate the time and facilities requirements needed for manual processing and its associated waste generation.”

So how does one find the best value when considering X-ray or imaging equipment?

A handful of experts offered some very straightforward, obvious advice: Find what best serves the business and clinical needs, as well as the operation’s budget.

Stick to the basics

When purchasing X-ray or imaging equipment, start with the cost of ownership and go from there, said Jay Welton, an equipment solutions specialist with Dublin, Ohio-based Henry Schein Animal Health.

Important points to ponder before purchase include upfront costs, whether the specs match the practice’s needs (general or mixed practice, orthopedic specialty, dentistry, etc.), continuing support costs, system servicing and support, budgetary concerns, whether the company and your rep understand your business, and more, he added.

Placing price above all other considerations could lead to a clinic getting stuck with a piece of equipment that doesn’t meet its needs, said Steve Asakowicz, executive vice president of companion animal health for Loveland, Colo.-based Heska/Cuattro.

Instead, give greater consideration to a piece of equipment’s diagnostic capabilities and how long it’s likely to last before a new purchase must be made, he said.

Start with the greatest level of high-definition panel technology from a “truly cloud-based-system partner” to ensure your investment will last and pay off in the long run, he added.

Partner with a provider that’s been doing reputable business for a long time, said Jeanne Walter, CVT, marketing ad sales coordinator/veterinary products manager, for Northbrook, Ill.-based MinXray.

“Look for quality, proven products from a long-standing provider of X-ray equipment,” Walter said.

It’s good business sense for clinics to look for value, but the point of buying an X-ray machine or other piece of imaging equipment is to bring a quality diagnostic tool into an operation, said Chris King, MBA, product manager of animal health for Dayton, Ohio-based Midmark.

“One of the first things you look for is a high-quality image,” King said. “Price for animal health clinics is definitely part of the equation, but you’ve got to also find value.”

Safety should be a factor, he added, and advised clinics to purchase equipment that uses cesium iodide panels over gadolinium oxysulfide.

“Cesium iodide gives you the ability to lower the dose by about 10 percent,” King said. “You want to lower the exposure to the pets, but you also want to lower the exposure for your staff.”

Beyond the basics

Full-body computed tomography systems are growing in popularity, Welton said.

“It’s not a digital X-ray system, and it’s not as fast as digital radiography, but it provides exponentially more information than digital X-ray can,” he said. “It provides the ability to render 3-D images of bones, organs, the skull, and teeth.”

Also, quality, general practice, full-body DR digital panels are increasingly affordable, Welton added.

“It is now very close in affordability as most computed radiology systems,” he said. “This is an excellent time to transition from film or to upgrade your old CR system.”

Peter Brunelli, managing director of Universal Imaging in Bedford Hills, N.Y., cited Fuji and Cannon equipment for high quality and service reliability.

“Fuji is No. 1 in world; Canon is No. 2,” he said. “Fuji is so reliable because the company makes all the hardware, all the software, the glass and TFT (thin film transistor), firmware, and acquisition software.”

Value has less to do with price than other considerations that should be given higher priority, said Asakowicz.

 3 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE BUYING
Veterinary Practice News asked five industry insiders to share buyer tips for those in the market for new imaging equipment.

Most repairs on digital X-ray equipment can be accomplished remotely to give veterinarians more options. Practitioners are no longer limited by geography as they were with film systems.

“Integration” can be misleading. Ask whether the software does the heavy lifting or if you must perform one or more steps for integration with existing systems.

Does the warranty cover parts; parts and labor; or parts, labor, and live support? Is everything in your warranty covered for the same time period?—Jay Welton, an equipment solutions specialist with Dublin, Ohio-based Henry Schein Animal Health

You need 1.) a tech support agreement regardless of which panel you buy, 2.) a service contract, especially if you buy a generic panel, and 3.) connectivity with unlimited access to the outside world for diagnostic capabilities.—Peter Brunelli, managing director of Universal Imaging, Bedford Hills, N.Y.

Digital imaging systems have come down in price tremendously over the past few years, and digital upgrades are available for any properly functioning X-ray generator. Converting to digital eliminates the need for a darkroom, processing chemicals, and physical film storage. Digital systems reduce the number of required retakes due to poor exposure technique due to imaging software capabilities.—Jeanne Walter, CVT, marketing and sales coordinator/veterinary products manager for Northbrook, Ill.-based MinXray

All DR is not created equal. Despite what low-cost vendors would like us to believe, prices vary for good reason. Consider image quality, panel technology, PACS, warranty, support, and included upgrades. In-house servers are a thing of the past. Consider cloud-based PACS and image archival, and enjoy the benefits of securely storing and accessing patient records. Also, warranty matters and multiple years should be included up front. What matters are the warranty term, the cost, and the details of covered items. Dig deep here.—Steve Asakowicz, executive vice president of companion animal health for Heska/Cuattro

Look for a high-quality image. An X-ray machine is a diagnostic tool. If you can’t get a high-quality image, you’re not going to be able to see the bone and tissue. Also, it’s not just about the hardware. Look for intuitive software that will increase your workflow.

Think about support. You don’t want to purchase a system from a company that is not going to back you. If something happens, you don’t want to be down for an extended period of time.—Chris King, MBA, product manager animal health for Midmark

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