por Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 18, 2012
Hospitals in the market to buy a new CT scanner should avoid the trap of getting fancier technology than they need, and they should be aggressive with vendors in calculating uptime in service contracts, tech planning experts with ECRI Institute advised during a recent event on CT equipment purchasing.
"We understand you have your one chance every seven years to get a CT scanner, so you want to buy the latest and greatest systems available today," Robert Maliff, director of ECRI's applied solutions group, said during the institute's webinar, held Wednesday. "But clinically do you truly need that?""
In the online talk, "Cost vs. Reality - What CT scanner should I choose?" the health care technology non-profit also revealed that 128-slice scanners were the type of CT equipment its hospital clients were most interested in.
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CT scanners are a big investment for most hospitals. Average prices range from $400,000 for a 16-slice scanner on the low end to $1.6 million for one of the hundred-plus slice premium systems, according to Jason Launders, a medical physicist and senior project officer for medical devices with ECRI. Generally, buyers hope their scanner lasts seven to 10 years, he said.
"A lot of people probably overbuy technology, but we also know there are a lot of considerations" down the road, Launders said. "It's important to get the decision right."
[Go here to find out how to watch an archived version of the webinar.]
Still, when purchasing, it's best not to get too bogged down in slice counts. Since 1998, when multi-slice scanners became commercially available, providers would talk a lot about how many slices or "channels" the device had, he said. But it's not the be-all, end-all, as coverage area of the detector is also a clinically important number. Also, with the top-of-the-line premium systems, such as Philips' iCT, Siemens' Definition Flash or Edge, or Toshiba's Aquilion One or Premium, other advanced applications are often the main driver of value.
"Over the last three or four years, slices have become less important," he said.
128-slice on top
Of the current models, 64-slice scanners are the "workhorse" in modern radiology, and come with a "medium" price tag and total ownership costs, Launders said. They're often also upgradeable, a key consideration for many buyers, to 128-slice, which allows for better 3-D modeling and artifact reduction, and is "definitely a popular place to be at the moment," he said.