Healthcare is one of the largest industries in the U.S., so it’s not surprising that many entrepreneurs choose to open their own diagnostic imaging center. But, what types of MRI machines should go in a new imaging center? While it was once believed this field was reserved only for doctors, scientists, or those with extensive medical backgrounds, it has become a common trend for certain business savvy individuals (sans the M.D.) to open up shop. Of course, you would still need the proper licenses and qualifications as required by your state, and it’s a great idea to have a working knowledge of medical imaging and billing. With nearly 300 million scans performed in the United States every year, owning an imaging business has the potential to generate a sizable income.
On the flip side, mistakes or naivety when you’re dealing with these million-dollar-plus machines could mean catastrophic business failure. So whether you have a medical background, or you are learning as you embark on this brand new venture, it IS imperative you align with an industry expert from the very beginning stages of site planning. Doing so will ensure you never miss a never step in this extremely nuanced and complex industry. With that being said, let’s take a look at the basic MRI machinery and different types of magnets one would expect to find in imaging centers. Some centers may focus on just one of these, while others may have a combination of options for patients. How can you know what types of MRI machines should go in a new imaging center?
5 Types of MRI Machines to Consider
1.Traditional MRI | Closed – $200,000- $1.2 million
A closed MRI, or closed bore MRI, is the typical machine that most would think of when they hear the term MRI. The patient is slid into a large cylinder tube (called the bore) and the magnet produces very high-quality images, making this machine the preferred choice of most technicians. However, patient comfort, long imaging times, and other factors sometimes get in the way. High-quality images require the patient to be extremely still, so kids or those with anxiety and/or claustrophobia might have a hard time getting through the procedure, especially when some scans can take up to 90 minutes. Overweight individuals also may not be able to fit into the magnet, requiring a different imaging method. Still, a closed MRI is still the best way to ensure the highest-quality images because of the strength of the magnetic field. For a single traditional MRI magnet, prices range from about $200,000 all the way up to $1.2 million, depending on the model, the strength of the magnet, and whether the unit is new, used or refurbished.
2.Wide Bore MRI | Closed – + $2 million
Though still technically “closed,” the wide bore MRI was created by engineers as a response to the discomfort that many patients feel during a traditional MRI scan. The magnet we described above typically only has a 60 cm bore. The wide bore MRI has a 70 cm bore, creating a much more open feel for those inside the magnet. In addition, wide-bore machines can accommodate up to 550 pounds, making this machine an all-inclusive option for imaging centers. As far as image quality, the wide-bore magnet does not appear to sacrifice quality at the expense of more space, and in fact, takes less time to scan than a traditional MRI. Many manufacturers are starting to phase out magnets with bores smaller than 70 cm. Though newer and more expensive than the traditional scanner (these models can run over $2 million each), the wide-bore MRI seems to be a safe choice if you plan to open an imaging center.
3. Extremity MRI | Closed – $50,000-$150,000
Another magnet that is considered a “closed” MRI is the extremity scanner producing images in just the arms and legs. This allows for a smaller scanner that can hone in on these areas, without the need for the patient to be completely encompassed. Because of this, claustrophobia is rarely an issue, and patients report much higher levels of comfort and ease. Extremity MRIs can produce powerful images of arms, legs, hands, and feet and can diagnose illnesses or injuries in the bones, muscles, joints, blood vessels, or nerves. Since extremity MRIs are much smaller than traditional magnets, costs range anywhere from $50,000-$150,000 and can be a great addition to any imaging center.
4. Open MRI – Cost Varies
Open MRIs avoid the bore altogether and instead, contain just a top and bottom component with open sides. Although open MRIs solve the claustrophobia issue and allow for the scanning of larger individuals, they do so at the expense of image quality. This is because open MRI scanners use a significantly weaker magnet. While the typical open MRI has a magnet strength of 0.3T to 0.7T, the aforementioned closed bore scanners typically run 1.5T or 3.0T. Still, the open MRI is a good choice for many children and adults, as the patients’ comfort (and stillness) is paramount in generating images.
5. Upright/Standing MRI | Open – $3 million
The newest option on the market is the stand-up MRI, also called an upright MRI. Since the patient is standing up with his/her head exposed, the patient is able to chat or watch TV while keeping still enough for the magnet to capture high-quality images. Although certainly not ubiquitous (in some states, you may only be able to find a single standing MRI machine), the upright MRI is proving to be the future of imaging technology, especially for lumbar or joint issues, where the patient’s weight-bearing stance makes it easier to diagnose certain injuries. These brand new, state-of-the-art units with high magnetic fields could cost you up to $3 million each.
What types of MRI machines should go in a new imaging center?
As you can see, it’s certainly not one-size-fits-all when it comes to magnets. The machine to buy is a huge business decision that can’t be taken lightly. A further consideration is that each magnet will have its own requirements, parts/components, and maintenance schedules. Again, aligning with an industry expert is key here. The technicians at Altima have worked in the MRI imaging business for over 30 years, serving clients around the world with everything from launching the businesses, to maintaining and optimizing the entire fleet of magnets. Give us a call today for a detailed business/site planning strategy – you’ll be glad you did!