In a perfect world, price wouldn’t be a factor to consider when purchasing a new modality. But most veterinarians simply cannot afford to invest in a DR system unless they are confident that it will pay for itself or, preferably, add to their profits.
Prices for digital X-ray systems range from $40,000 to $80,000 and beyond. That’s a major expense for any practice, but the upfront cost isn’t the only factor to consider; equally important is the ongoing expense of keeping your DR up and running.
Five years from now, will your DR system still be working? Will it be able to support the growth of your practice? Will repairs and ongoing costs wipe out all of your profits? Will the company who sold it to you still be in business?Will the technical support be just as reliable as it was on day one?
If you don’t ask these questions, you will almost certainly regret your purchasing decision. Here are the things about a DR configuration that add cost to the system, and which of these things actually add value (vs. just perceived value):
- Panel Manufacturer
- Image Processing
- Equine Design
- Warranty and Support
In general, the phrase “you get what you pay for” holds in the veterinary DR market, and most of this cost comes in the reliability of the panels, both in their ability to consistently produce quality images as well as in their longevity in the clinic. The most reputable panel manufacturers in the world (both human and veterinary) are…
…with several second–tier panel manufacturers (mostly southern-Asian) entering the market space.
Especially when Cesium is concerned, there is a much higher manufacturer-dependence on this quality. Only the manufacturers with years of experience growing Cesium have developed a consistency and quality you need. And obviously, this comes at a premium price point: these quality panels come in systems that start just north of $50,000.
Assuming a “good” quality DR panel, whichever manufacturer is used, these hardware differences produce only minor variation in panel sensitivity. All of this is very much secondary to the most important step in the acquisition process: Image Processing. The minor pixel-level differences only yield the raw image data, which is virtually useless diagnostically. The importance of image processing is not only in the ability to create a sharp, diagnostic image. Virtually any commercially available software can do this.
More important, though, is the ability to produce this image quality consistently across a wide range of patients, anatomies, and positions. Again, any image processing software worth its weight CAN produce a nice image of a mini’s stifle as well as one of warmblood’s C-spine. The ones that demand a premium price tag are the ones that don’t require any individual tuning of the parameters to achieve this consistency. A “hands free” image processing suite that is used on daily basis in thousands of human and veterinary DR panels every day for the last decade; now that’s worth the premium price tag.
Equine Design: Inside and Out
Very few manufacturers have designed systems from the ground-up for the equine veterinarian. The market is very small compared to the big blue ocean of human healthcare where the volume of systems is enormous. That said, you don’t work in a human hospital with a fixed x-ray table and plenty of wall-space for mounted monitors. Instead you work in a barn, or stable, or out of the back of your truck.
Equine DR systems that have been engineered specifically of your needs take into account durability, viewability, and workflow. These systems are not just human DR systems thrown in a bag. Instead, from a hardware perspective, they come in rugged cases that incorporate glare-free monitors, and have places to store things like the detector plate, replacement batteries, and power cords.
From a software perspective, the premium equine DR systems have workflows that fit the day-to-day operations. Whether that means pre-set protocols for standard image sets or the ability to view in portrait or landscape orientations depending if you are viewing a stifle or a neck, these kinds of things take precious time away from redundant screen-clicking and back into more important things.
Another primary benefit of wireless DR is the ability to store X-rays digitally rather than filing them in your clinic’s storage space. You also have a choice of where to save your files: either on a local server (a hard drive in your clinic) or on a cloud drive.
Cloud storage is an extra expense, but it offers numerous benefits. First, it tends to be more secure than local servers because your data will be backed up automatically. Also, your X-rays will be accessible from anywhere in the world, which means it will be easy for you to share X-rays and collaborate in real-time with other doctors and specialists no matter where they’re located.
Warranty and Support
Your DR system is an investment, any way you slice it. And the truth is, you’re going to spend the money, whether upfront or over the long term in the form of extended service. Even more truth is that the amount you spend after the purchase can be even more impactful on the total cost of ownership. This is why this is probably the most important section of this article. You need to make sure you are working with a DR partner that has a long history of quality service in the veterinary market and with its vendors. The worst thing you can do is leave yourself vulnerable to ala carte support or worse, an un-supportable device (because the manufacturer no longer produces parts for the system). Extended warranty/service packages are often a salesman’s least favorite talking point, because they just want to get the deal done, but this is an enormously important part of your buying decision.
To over-simplify: for ~$40K you can buy a DR system from a company that just recently started working with a second-tier panel manufacturer, with re-purposed human software, image processing software that requires tuning for each image, and offers inexpensive extended service. Good luck.
Or you can invest $60K for a DR system from a company that has decades-long relationships with industry-leading panel manufacturers using robust, hands-free image processing in an intuitive software platform designed specifically for veterinary applications, equipped with extended service packages that will put you at ease for years to come.
If you would like to learn more about SOUND’s Equine DR Systems, call Sound® at 800-268-5354 or visit our website.