Purchasing a nuclear gamma camera is a significant investment and one that should be carefully weighed. In addition to evaluating new imaging systems, most practices also consider a used or refurbished system.
Which choice is best and what is right for your practice? As with any long-term purchase, there are pros and cons to each side, and many times it comes down to a trade-off between cost and benefits.
In this post, we’ll look at the potential costs associated with ownership and some of the pros/cons associated with each type of system.
New Gamma Cameras
New nuclear imaging systems may require a larger initial investment, but there are many advantages to buying a new system. The benefits of a new camera include:
- A guarantee that the system will work as expected.
- Service contracts that are built into the price for a standard period of time.
- The ability to receive 7-10+ years of vendor support before the technology becomes obsolete.
New cameras leverage the latest technology, which positively affects your ability to earn a return from your investment. A modern, solid-state nuclear gamma camera should provide faster scan times, a smaller footprint requiring less square footage, and images with greater clinical confidence.
Gaining a greater throughput capacity and enhancing reputation in the community as a facility with state-of-the-art imaging equipment are often cited as ancillary benefits of purchasing new versus used.
Additionally, a new nuclear gamma camera allows you to monitor and maintain the equipment from the first scan, which will help with future maintenance and enable the camera to last longer.
Refurbished Gamma Cameras
Refurbished systems are typically cameras that have been turned back in by the previous owner. When these systems arrive at a refurbishing company (this is typically done by the OEM though some may be done by a qualified third party), they are thoroughly inspected, repaired as needed, and cleaned up to provide a brand-new appearance.
While these systems might appear to be shiny and new, a buyer should proceed with caution. An OEM that is refurbishing one of their own systems have access to diagnostic tools and upgrades that a third-party refurbishing company might not have, making it more of an apples to oranges scenario. An OEM will also make certain to bring the system up to its original specifications. OEM’s are held to a high standard that third parties typically cannot match.
It is suggested to request references of physician groups or facilities that have previously purchased refurbished equipment to determine the quality of the refurb. Other important questions to ask before buying a refurbished gamma camera include:
- What is your uptime guarantee?
- Is a service contract included in the purchase price?
- Does the service contract cover everything, or is it simply a time and materials agreement?
- Does the OEM still support this system (has the OEM declared the system “end of life” or more importantly has the OEM declared the system ”end of service”)?
- Has the system been updated to the latest parts and software versions applicable to that make and model?
- Does the system have an upgrade pathway for your future?
- What is the remaining clinically useful life of this imaging system?
These questions should be addressed before making a refurbished gamma camera purchase. If you decide to move forward with a refurbished system, it’s essential to acknowledge that equipment used by another practice may lead to unforeseen downtime or repairs.
Used Gamma Cameras
A used gamma camera typically has the lowest initial cost to obtain a new-to-you system for your facility. However, it is typically more costly in the long run (ie, over a 7 to 10 year period).
The quality of used systems can be challenging to gauge before purchasing. Some used nuclear gamma cameras give you a great system without any issues at a fraction of the typical cost. Other times, you’ll be stuck with a system that is plagued with problems and financial heartache.
Usually, these systems come with no, or a minimal, warranty or uptime guarantee (30-90 days from date of purchase) without much room for you to take action if the system turns out to be a lemon.
Additionally, the used systems are typically installed into your facility in the same condition as they were removed from the last facility. The camera could show visual signs of wear-and-tear, typically will not have any updates (parts or software) and likely will not have any upgrades (or upgrade pathways), or much useful clinical life left.
You’ll want to look into how you are planning to cover the imaging system with service and determine:
- Are there still parts available from the OEM for this system?
- Does the OEM still support this system (ie, has it been declared ”end of service”)?
- Does the risk of buying a used system outweigh a new or refurbed system?
- Will the image quality be “good enough” compared to newer technology?
At the end of the day, all three of these scenarios are common and can be beneficial solutions. The budget and needs of your facility will help determine how much risk you’re willing to take and if you’re comfortable with the upfront and future financial obligations.