MR, CT equipment remote troubleshooting "a real, innovative change to the market"

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | January 05, 2015
Southwest Medical Resources' RDU
Traditionally, when an MR or CT is in need of maintenance support a customer support engineer would have to travel to the facility to fix the issue, even for minor problems. But more companies have started offering monitoring services to troubleshoot equipment remotely.

The services will alert a facility if its helium level starts to go down, which reduces the amount of times the magnet has to be filled. "That right there is a real, innovative change to the market — people are normally filling their magnets about once a year," Don McCormack, CEO of Southwest, told DOTmed News.

GE Healthcare deployed its InSite service technology in late 1989. For the first time, customers could call the GE Healthcare Customer Center and a support engineer would log in to the MR remotely to get the system running again.
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Over 140,000 imaging systems and devices globally are connected to InSite and about 30 percent of the issues are solved remotely, mostly in less than 20 minutes, according to GE. In the past few years, GE has expanded the InSite platform to be able to leverage advanced service capabilities to help solve some of the toughest operational issues.

But for some facilities, it makes more sense to have a third-party company monitor their equipment. One of those companies is Southwest Medical Resources, which launched its Remote Diagnostic Unit (RDU) technology about eight years ago.

RDU is built for the customer, an in-house engineer and a single-source service company to diagnose issues with GE MRs, CTs and PET/CTs. It monitors helium levels, the magnets' pressure, chiller diagnostics, image artifacts, temperature and humidity and the cold heads' status.

RDU trends the magnet's helium levels over the course of a week and alerts the facility even if it only went down by a tenth of a percent. "We're down to the point where we're monitoring for a tenth of a percent of helium over weeks because we don't want to lose any over the course of a year," McCormack said.

One facility had RDU on service for 35 months and it only lost 10 percent of its helium. It didn't need a refill even though it had a cold head change, a compressor change, and its water chiller shut down several times.

Sometimes a facility's compressor will shut off when the temperature inside gets too hot and the chiller will need to be serviced. RDU is able to reset the chiller remotely, which is something that not many vendors are able to do.

Southwest has recently started monitoring Siemens Healthcare's MRs and CTs as well. Right now the product is "very rudimentary" but the company has partnered with other companies in the industry that specialize in Siemens equipment to develop the product.

McCormack said that they will also offer a product for Philips Healthcare systems in the future "if the market dictates it."

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