Best Practices When Buying an Ultrasound Device
At www.thalamed.com we often get requests from doctors, who want to buy an ultrasound device. Hospitals have the advantage of having a procurement department for purchasing this equipment. If you, as a doctor, don´t have someone to go through the buying process for you, this article will help you buy your next device. We have summed up some best practices for you on how to buy your next ultrasound device.
The first thing to consider: Do I really need an ultrasound device?
A general practitioner from Klaaswaal, The Netherlands, told me he would not have done ultrasound at all if he would not have gotten a top-quality device. For most specialists, such as GP´s and physiotherapists, doing ultrasounds is not reimbursed. As a business case, for these doctors, ultrasound might not make sense. The devices cost between €5.000 and €100.000. Depending on your specialty, the brand and the quality you are looking for, a good device could cost €30.000. You would have to do a lot of scans to make money from it!
Think about your requirements and budget
This may be a hard one: what do you need to do with the device? You probably used ultrasound before, whether in your career or during the training. Consider which procedures you would really like to perform and which applications you would need for this. If you are a physiotherapist, you probably want to do musculoskeletal ultrasound. 3D or 4D ultrasound is mostly used for obstetrics, gynecology and in cardiology and might therefore not be an option you want to pay for.
In case you are not really sure whether you want to include certain options, at least set a budget for yourself. How much would you like to spend on the device? First, consider this separate from the knowledge of actual prices. You may find out that you cannot buy an ultrasound device for your budget, but this is still better than buying one you cannot afford.
Also, doctors who are new on the ultrasound market tend to be scared of pushy, over-motivated salespeople. Once you determine your budget, you can be clear to a salesperson what your plan is. This prevents you being talked into a device, thousands of euros over your original budget. And be aware, prices are usually excluding taxes.
In case you are not sure about your budget either, or you are not sure if you can get any proper ultrasound device for your budget, ask around. I was told by a more experienced buyer that most doctors are afraid to approach a salesperson, because they fear that the whole sales-team will be activated for them. He tells us: ‘Don’t be afraid, they are normal people and you can just talk to them and ask for information’.
If you want just a price indication, tell them you are considering to take a course in ultrasound and you want to know around which prices you could get a device for your specialty, in order to see if you could make the investment. Ask around with some vendors to get an impression of the market. Tell them, if you don’t want to be contacted by them and you will get back with them after you made your decision.
Compare brands, models and offers
Once you have determined which functions you want and for which budget, it makes sense to go and talk to some salespeople. This may be time consuming, but it is very important to compare products and make an educated decision at this stage – you will spend thousands of euros in the end and you want to know that you found a reliable partner for the years to come.
Do not just go for the cheapest offer, but check that the device works to your standards. There are always offers out there on E-Bay or from Chinese manufacturers you never heard of before, that simply send you the device you ordered. Advice from one of our doctors is to not buy a secondhand device, unless you have a lot of experience with ultrasound devices and procedures. This is because you will have to determine by yourself if it is good quality and if the device is reliable. Also, you will have to determine where you can go for repairs, because the vendor of secondhand devices may not include service offers. With a device that is such an investment, it is advisable to compare the quality and user-friendliness of several products. Request demos or if possible even to have the device in your practice for a week or so, to get familiar with it.
Once you have found one, or maybe a couple of devices you enjoy working with, you’re not done. The next step is to look at offers for guarantees and service. This is a device that you hope to work with for the next 5-10 years. Therefore, you want to be sure that you have good and timely service if something breaks down and whether you can get a replacement until they fixed your device.
Don´t just be the doctor
And then comes the tricky part! Yes, I’m sorry, we’re not done yet. After this much investment, after finding out what you want, for how much money, which is the best device for you, it is finally time to take off your doctor-hat. Unless you work in a hospital with a procurement department, you have to be your own buyer and make the best possible deal. You know what you want and where you want to buy it, but maybe they can throw in a little extra.
One of our experience-experts told us in physiotherapy it is common that they pay for your ultrasound training in worth of around €2.000 or if they won’t, you can ask for a discount. Maybe you work in a group of practices and you can even get a bulk discount, buying one device for each practice. Or they will offer you a replacement device until yours can be delivered. Have an old device standing around? Ask how much they can take off the price if you let them have it. You have the opportunity to make the best deal here, that you will enjoy for many years to come.