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Ultrasound technology has advanced dramatically in the past decade, quickly becoming one of the most useful diagnostic tools in a vet’s practice.

Purchasing an ultrasound will be one of the largest investments your clinic makes, and technological advances mean vets have more options than ever. Several features that were considered “bells and whistles” years ago have become the standard, and new models are far more user-friendly than their predecessors.

The improvement in quality means you can find a machine that is ideally suited for your practice, but with so many options, you need to do your homework.

Here are seven tips to keep in mind when purchasing veterinary ultrasound machine:

1. Consider A Distributor That Has New And Used Machines

Vets opening a new clinic or upgrading their current equipment shouldn’t assume that they should go directly to the manufacturer. Manufacturers will not only have the highest prices, but they will also steer you toward their specific brand without regard for your specific needs. A distributor with new and used machines can offer you more options and help you save money, and you won’t be pigeonholed into one brand.

2. Look Into The Bells And Whistles

Before making a purchase, consider features that will enhance your ability to focus on the patient. These components add to the initial purchase price, but they are worth considering when buying a machine you will use for several years. Features most vets find beneficial include the following:

  • Automatic image optimization has become the industry standard for new ultrasounds. This feature allows technicians to get a sharp and clear image with the press of a button, while older models require the user to adjust the machine.
  • Simultaneous split-screen allows users to compare new images with those from the previous evaluations.
  • Swivel and tilting monitors make it easier to review images, and vets explaining a diagnosis can more easily share those images with a pet owner.
  • A system that is linked to the cloud streamlines the process of collaborating with specialists all over the world, and vets can enhance customer service by sharing images with pet owners.
  • Customizable report templates allow users to have standard reporting formats for specific procedures.

3. Consider Customization

As one of the most versatile machines in a clinic, ultrasounds can be tricked out with specific applications depending on your needs. Manufacturers are customizing newer models to help practices save money by getting machines targeted for their specific niche without having to overspend on functions they will not use.

  • Needle Guidance Enhancement allows greater precision for vets using the ultrasound for needle sampling.
  • If you will be using the machine for advanced echocardiography, you can add specialized transducers, CW (continuous wave) Doppler, and an ECG tracing system.
  • Specialty practices can get an array of add-ons. A vet who uses the machine primarily for equine care will have very different needs compared to a small animal specialist.

4. Human Machines Work On Animals

While all the features described above are customized for animal care, buying a retrofitted human ultrasound is an attractive option for many veterinarians. 

Ultrasound machines built for human use won’t come with the software and presets that many veterinarians use, but human machines perform the same function and can be easily adapted for your needs.

Because of FDA regulations, standard medical ultrasounds have higher requirements for image clarity and precision. While human machines are more expensive when brand-new, many hospitals upgrade their equipment regularly, so there are deals out there.

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5. Consider all the Payment Options

Once you have narrowed down the specific machine that will meet your purposes, there is an array of options for procuring the machine.

First, calculate how long it will take for your ultrasound purchase to pay for itself. Ultrasound procedures typically cost $150 to $500, depending on your market.

Let’s say you purchase a $40,000 machine and profit roughly $200 per ultrasound, performing on average 3 scans per week. 

$200 per scan x 3 scans per week x 50 weeks a year = $30,000 

Based on the above scenario, the machine would have theoretically paid for itself in about 16 months. This example is over-simplified, but the point is to keep in mind how much revenue the machine will generate as you consider how much to invest.

6. Buy, Finance or Lease?

The three main options are whether to buy, finance, or lease the machine.

If you have the funds, buying the machine outright can save on the interest you will incur if you need to finance the purchase.

However, payment plans typically have preventative maintenance agreements built into the cost to protect the investment, and borrowing can make sense, depending on the interest rates and how much cash you have on hand.

You can also look into a leasing agreement, which brings some tax advantages. The IRS considers operating leases tax-deductible overhead expenses, so you can deduct the payments from your practice’s annual income. If you are going to be applying for a loan for another major purchase in the near future, a lease can make you more attractive to potential lenders. Operating leases are not considered a long-term liability, meaning there will be less debt on your financial statement than if you purchased.

7. Consider Demand

As if there were not enough factors to keep in mind, we’ll leave you with one last thing to consider: the competition.

Look at what competing practices are doing as an indicator of what the market is demanding. A tricked-out machine may set you apart in a good way, or it could set you back if your ambitions are greater than your clients’ needs.

Conclusion

Picking the right ultrasound is one of the most impactful decisions you will make, whether you are setting up a new practice or upgrading. Doing your homework on what you need, talking to an ultrasound specialist such as Choice Medical Systems, and picking the right financial path can ensure you end up with a machine that benefits both your practice and your patients for years to come.

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