KLAS: Providers assess ultrasound vendors, features

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Healthcare providers scrutinized ultrasound vendors and their services in a new KLAS report, “Ultrasound 2011: Innovation on the Move."

"Providers, determined to respond to the concerns of both patients and insurance companies, must know they can count on ultrasound technology that will perform well across multiple specialties," noted Emily Crane, author of the KLAS report. "They want a system that is easy to move, because the anticipated increase in use means ultrasound scans will be performed across diverse departments throughout a facility."

"New research presented at the 2011 American Institute of Ultrasound annual meeting revealed that partially substituting ultrasound for CT scans in evaluating appendicitis alone could save the U.S. healthcare system more than $1.2 billion annually," said Crane. "This is financially significant and should lead to greater numbers of ultrasound scans being performed. Providers need to determine what matters most to them, and then select the ultrasound system that will best satisfy their imaging requirements."

The 237 respondents, 73 percent of whom are either radiologists or sonographers working in facilities with 500 beds or less, named the six ultrasound vendor firms they currently work with: GE Healthcare, Hitachi Medical Systems, Philips Healthcare, Siemens Healthcare, Toshiba America Medical Systems and Zonare Medical Systems. Philips and GE are performing extremely well with their newest customers and are seeing early adoption of new technologies and procedures, according to the Orem, Utah-based research firm.

Of the top three ranked performers—GE, Toshiba, and Philips—the most satisfied customers belong to GE and Philips. GE received the highest marks for overall image quality while still being mobile enough for most providers. Philips customers generally felt the units perform very well on most scan types and offer excellent technology, and Toshiba customers are generally pleased with cost, reliability and image quality, the report stated.

The report noted that the ultrasound "buzz" in 2011 is focused on breast imaging. However, there are a number of applications and features to consider. Some buyers want low prices, dependable service and thorough training. Others are looking for technical innovations such as image fusion, elastrography and 3D/4D applications, the report continued.