The CT market is undergoing a shift as dose reduction becomes more and more important. Medicare reimbursements are also impacting change for these important healthcare devices. TechNation reached out to industry leaders for their insights regarding CTs and what we can expect in the near future. The panel for this roundtable is made up of President of International Medical Equipment and Service Inc. Trey McIntyre, M.I.T. Vice President of Sales Sarah Player and Technical Prospects CEO Jeremy Probst.
Q: How will the market for CT equipment evolve over the next five years?
McIntyre: Technology’s race to more slices has already given way to chasing lower-dose systems, and that will likely continue. OEMs may find ways to offer plug-ins and low-cost system upgrades so they can stay under their customers’ spending thresholds. The secondary market will continue to see prices fall even as good equipment gets harder and harder to find.
Player: One way the market will evolve is the new law being passed in 2016 for dose reduction and Medicare reimbursements. The really old equipment will not be able to meet these standards so if the customer wants Medicare reimbursements they will have to update their equipment. Another way the market will change a little bit is the fact that parts for the older, single-slice CTs are going to start becoming really hard to find. People with those CTs will probably have to start thinking about updating.
Probst: Dose reduction and measurement is still very high on the list of targeted specifications to review, however the slice wars seem to be over. High-quality refurbished equipment with third-party support will be among the highest of demands followed.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges of purchasing and maintaining CT equipment today?
McIntyre: With capital budgets being constrained — often paralyzed — it is difficult to find quality equipment and a cost-effective plan to maintain it. But it’s absolutely still possible to get great equipment, and finding the right parts provider to partner with you will make maintenance easy and affordable.
Player: The biggest challenge is making sure you get a good reputable company. I have customers who have used third-party companies that don’t have any training or are a one-man company and they have been burned. It makes them question using them again. It is a challenge. Customers need to make sure they do research, research and research before buying an expensive piece of equipment or signing a multiple-year service contract.
Probst: The largest challenge in the selection process that has become very prevalent in the industry is the availability of alternative to OEM “new” or “pre-owned” X-ray tubes. This can be the first, and often the most expensive, cost of ownership failure point. Other challenges are the availability of third-party parts, training and technical support. In a market where cost of ownership reduction is a primary measurement of purchasing refurbished products, buyers need to research the market as many alternatives to OEM companies have solutions. If you are selecting a new CT from an OEM, you may want to consider negotiating training and discounted parts in the initial contract and when the warranty or service contract ends you will be happy you did.
Q: What are the most important things to look for in a reputable third-party CT equipment provider?
McIntyre: Quality has to be the first priority, followed by reliability at a close second. There’s no use in being a reliable partner when the quality isn’t there; you add no value to the customer. Can you test and scan with the system before purchasing? Does the provider have true expertise and experience you can depend on?
Player: Make sure you call references. Don’t just ask how good they are at service, ask how often the CT they bought goes down and then you will know if they do a thorough refurb or if they just paint the covers.
Probst: An in-depth review of their quality management system and the qualifications of their engineers who will be servicing your CT. If you are procuring a refurbished CT take a tour and spend some up front time reviewing the supplier’s processes. Many third-party CT equipment providers rely on outside vendors for parts, training and support. Having a solid network that provides this service will help to ensure uptime guarantees.
Q: How can purchasers ensure that they will receive the necessary literature and training tools?
McIntyre: That’s the importance of working with a provider that you trust, and making sure these types of concerns are discussed before delivery. A good provider will stay with you long after the purchase, and will make things right if there was any miscommunication or misunderstanding during the purchasing process.
Player: If you purchase through a third-party company, the company will offer some kind of applications training. Some people will ask you to pay for it, some will have it included in the quoted price. You need to make sure, if that is something your techs need, that you ask if it is included or not.
Probst: Buyers should be asking about applications training and if the CT will fall under shared service. They should look for training of their in-house engineering team. Operations manuals usually are acquired from the facility that the CT was removed from. In many cases, service manuals will not be at the site that they purchase the CT from as they often are keep off site or are unavailable.
Q: What else do you think TechNation readers need to know about purchasing and servicing CT equipment?
Player: Go with a third-party company. It will save you a lot of money in the long run. Make sure you do your homework on them and call references because there are a few out there that do not do a good job and it gives the rest of them a bad name.
Probst: There are many options available. Conduct market research and select the right partner that meets your short- and long-term goals of the department. Third-party parts, training and technical support will become paramount to their success if they choose to service the equipment in house.
Q: What else would you like to add or do you think is important for biomeds to know about CT equipment?
McIntyre: You can actually improve the performance and reduce maintenance needs by having your techs up to date with applications training. Bad habits can be formed when trying to keep up with patient flow — and those habits can add wear to certain CT systems. A little applications refresher course can be a big help.
Player: If you do good PMs on them and keep them clean (dust free), the CT equipment should run really well and not have problems too often.
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