READY TO SWITCH NOW WHAT?
Once you decide you are ready to pursue digital radiography, it's time to tackle the toughest question: What unit should I
buy? There are three major types of digital systems—CR, Flat Panel DR, CCD. Each system has advantages and disadvantages,
such as how long it takes to create an image, how much the system costs, how easy it is to repair or replace, what components
are required (cassettes, dry processor), and whether the system can be used in more than one radiographic unit.
To educate yourself about all of the possibilities, start visiting vendors and asking the sales representatives plenty of
questions: What will you do for me after I buy (e.g. inclusive warranty, preventive maintenance)? Am I obliged to buy a service contract? If so, how much will that cost and what
is the service turnaround time for repairs? What will it cost to update the technology or software? Does the digital system
use the standard medical image file format DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine), and does the vendor meet
the minimum standards for DICOM conformance? Does the system store data easily? How do I back up my images and data independent
of the company that sells me the equipment so that no one outside my hospital can have access to this data? If I do not like
the system, how much time do I have to return it?
To protect yourself, before you sign the purchase order make sure everything you have been told and promised is in writing.
Remember, in most contracts the large print gives you something and the small print takes it away—so read the small print!
Also, for litigious reasons, you are better protected if the vendor has a home base in your state.
If you have the opportunity to visit the vendor's manufacturing plant or place of business, you should make the trip. You
are more likely to see the good and the bad. Things to ask yourself: Does the business look productive, progressive, and clean?
Are the people who work for the company polite, knowledgeable, and professional? Does the vendor have inventory on hand to
replace a part that needs repair or replacement? Do I think the vendor will still be in business in five years?
In addition to vendors, be sure to contact veterinarians who own the units you are most interested in buying—you can usually
get names from the vendor. What do they like about the system? How hard is it to use? Have they had any problems reproducing
images? How attentive has the vendor been to their needs after the sale? Ask the veterinarian to send you a few images—this
will let you know if the vendor helped the veterinarian become Internet savvy? Do you like the images? How easy is it to
manipulate, store, and send the images? Often you will get your best information from the technicians who are using the equipment,
so talk with the key support people who use the unit routinely. In addition to helping you make a decision about the unit,
they may be available to visit your hospital to show your staff the ins and outs of using the equipment if you do purchase
As a digital equipment evaluator, I routinely have practitioners tell me about their experiences with digital radiography.
These experiences are generally positive. When I do hear about a negative experience, it's usually because practitioners didn't
ask the hard questions and didn't do enough comparative research before buying, so make sure you are a conscientious consumer.
Seeking independent advice from a veterinary radiologist is money well spent. This technology is one of the biggest investments
a practice will make, and doing your homework will pay dividends in the long run.
Victor T. Rendano Jr., VMD, MSc, DACVR, DACVR-RO
Veterinary Multi-Imaging PLLC
3100 North Triphammer Road
P.O. Box 159
Lansing, NY 14882