This is the second of a 9-part series of articles intended to walk you through all the ins-and-outs of purchasing capital equipment for a veterinary practice. Far too often important steps/factors are glossed over during the sales process, items that may not be clearly defined on product literature. Missed information can lead to confusion prior to purchase, other information gaps can lead to more serious issues down the line, when there is no turning back.
In this series, we cover the details and importance of:
- Analyzing Your Practice
- Assessing Your Needs
- Evaluating the Market
- Pre-Demo Homework
- Scheduling a Demo
- Post Demo
- Pulling the Trigger
- The Waiting Game
- Post-Install Support
Just like in Part 1 of this series, the search to learn what you need begins with what equipment you currently have and what services you currently offer. First, simply list the modalities you own and the year you purchased each. That will give any equipment specialist a good starting point to the level of technology you have as well as some potential end-of-life issues. To learn more about those potential pitfalls of “end of life” hardware/software, click here.
Next, let’s move to the services you currently offer. From the basics to the super-specialties, capital equipment (whether imaging, surgical, or therapeutic) is the enabler that determines the level of care at your practice.
There are certain staples every veterinary clinic needs: radiography, anesthesia, monitoring equipment, and some way to perform laboratory diagnostics, whether in-house or to a reference lab. One
If you want to start narrowing in to do more than super-obvious extractions and gingivectomies, you probably need to invest in digital dental. These systems have smaller pixels, allowing you to see finer detail around the gumline and within the roots of the teeth.
Emergency & Critical Care
While radiography will be the primary tool for many of these emergency cases to see the general “whats out of place”, ultrasound is a very quick way (it’s not called a FAST scan for nuthin’) to get a better look at those internal, soft-tissue structure and look for free fluid around the abdomen.
To say you do “surgery” is pretty vague, since all you need to do a simple spay/neuter is a scalpel, right? But if you venture to the more complex surgical cases, you may need to incorporate things like endoscopy and CT to be able to get more internal detail. These are especially useful in anatomies that are tougher to see on radiographs (perhaps because they are mainly soft-tissue) or ultrasound (perhaps because they might be in the shadow of lots of other boney structures). If you do a lot of orthopedic surgeries, a C-Arm fluoroscopy unit might also help with real-time hardware alignment verification.
Ultrasound is an absolute must for looking at the abdomen, to the point that IM specialists could probably wear probe-holsters on their belts. With ultrasound comes the need for education, and so equally as important as the equipment is the avenue to get training, both at installation and as you grow its use in the clinic. For things like cardiology, there are more robust ultrasound systems that offer higher frame rates and color Doppler that allow more confident diagnoses of congenital heart diseases (things like valvular diseases and PDAs) and myocardial diseases (like dilated or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). And if you are in (or want to be in) the business of doing swallowing studies or cardiac stent placements, a C-Arm fluoroscopy system opens up a whole new level of medicine.
Neurology, Oncology, Radiology
If you fit into this bucket, this article is not for you. You know as well as we do what equipment you need to accomplish the specific goals in advanced imaging and therapeutics…things like multi-slice CT, high-field MRI, linear accelerators, etc.
The Bigger Question
The real question, though, is why AREN’T you offering these services? Is it a lack of training or education or personnel, or a lack of the proper tools to get you over this hump? If you have staff (both veterinarians and technicians) that have prior experience or motivated interest in these specialties, enabling them to pursue these advancements is a great investment.
This expansion will increase the level of care at your practice and provide multiple avenues for revenue. How much business do you refer out on an annual basis in some combination of imaging and interventional procedures? What does that breakdown look like? Could you do some of those procedures in-house if were able to “see more”, either in better detail or in different parts of anatomy?
Are you concerned that your staff wont have the time to incorporate any new modalities? Veterinarian time is of high value, so the goal is to incorporate more technology that allows their time to be spent doing high-revenue activities. An easy way to do that is to bring in technician-driven tools that uncover more stuff for the doctors to do, but without their direct involvement in the acquisition of the data itself. Certain modalities (high-end ultrasound, especially) will always require the hands of a specialist, but you may be surprised to find that some of the most advanced imaging modalities are almost exclusively run by technicians.
Take CT for example. This is one of the most advanced imaging modalities available with the power to uncover both bone and soft tissue structures everywhere in the body and in full 3-D and Multi-Planar visualizations. Sure the veterinarian needs to prescribe the need for CT and will probably be the first person to view/manipulate the images, but from the sedation of the patient to the setup of the machine and selection of the protocols, to the acquisition of the scan, the technician is behind the wheel. Obviously some machines are easier to use and some companies do a better job of training than others, but this is a very time-efficient procedure that will break even in the financials just on the charges per scan. The MAJOR upside is the ability to “see more, so you can do more”. If you unlock even one surgical procedure that you couldn’t have done otherwise, either because you couldn’t find the pathology or couldn’t visualize it well enough to convince the pet-owner to do the procedure, then you have paid for that machine for that month.
Take Away Message
What do you currently offer? Does any of it need to be replaced, either because it is on its last legs or because it is “behind the times”? What do you wish you could offer? And what is in your way of accomplishing those goals?
Answer these questions, and bring that thorough analysis as ammunition in your next conversation with an equipment specialist, who should be able to guide you on the next steps of your journey towards a higher level of care in your practice.
Download The Buyers Journey: A Guide to Intelligent Veterinary Equipment Purchases (Phase 1)
This program is designed to be your guide ensuring you make the most intelligent, clear and confident buying decision. This document will cover how to get that process started with the first three sections of your buying journey.