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Ultrasound: The stethoscope of modern imaging

by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer | May 29, 2012
From the May 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Affordability’s cost: The pros and cons
Along with lower-priced miniaturized systems, features once only available in high-end ultrasound devices are beginning to appear in more affordable ultrasound devices.

“Adaptive color doppler, pulse inversion harmonic imaging, and panoramic imaging, to name just a few, are now available at far more affordable costs than previously thought possible,” says McHan. “Cost effectiveness and ease of usage will still remain the primary drivers of system selection.”

OEMs like Siemens are trying to develop cost-effective ultrasound products for both the high-end and entry-level customers.

“Not everyone has access to the NYUs or the Massachusetts General Hospitals of the world,” says Siemens’ Davis.

The affordability of new ultrasound systems has increased so much that refurbished systems have seen a downward trend, according to Michael Sweeney, service technician for National Ultrasound, a company that sells new and refurbished ultrasound equipment. And Sweeney believes this trend is set to continue.

“Ultimately, the cost between maintaining a refurbished system and buying a new system makes the decision,” he says. “I think there is going to be a bigger shift towards new and portable and 3-D and 4-D systems as well; this is because cost is going to continue to go down, and more technology and competition are going to come into play.”

The industry’s price cuts are also posing a threat to organizations focused on field service of the equipment, as OEMs continue to drop their prices to service different modalities. “It is hard to have a compelling reason to go with a firm that is more money than the OEM or even close in price,” says Medpro’s Rubenstein.

Expansion to other modalities
A patient has a suspicious spot on his liver and the doctor is in charge of determining whether or not it is a malignant tumor. Up until now, the standard of care had been to diagnose a case like this using a CT scanner. A needle would be inserted into the patient’s belly and directed toward the tumor. If the needle wasn’t on target — a common dilemma — another CT would be required. So, the steps would be repeated, maybe three or four times until the needle finds the tumor and a sample taken. Meanwhile, the patient received four CTs, and equipment and staff was tied up for an hour administering the biopsy. Today, more hospitals offer equipment which enables health care professionals to fuse an image between the CT and ultrasound to guide the needle.

“That reduces the time down to 15 minutes in the ultrasound lab,” says Mullen. “Not to mention, it is also less traumatic for the patient.”

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