Adding or updating your facility’s linear accelerator (linac) is a decision with budgetary, space, and personnel impacts. The issue is further complicated when determining whether a new or pre-owned linac is right for you, and whether it will still be right for you ten years in the future. It is important to weigh everything carefully when making this decision. Because while it is often correct to seek a pre-owned model (for budgetary or other reasons), there are other times when it is advisable not to purchase a pre-owned model. In the following paragraphs, we hope to help you in your buying decision by explaining when it is better to seek a new linac and not a pre-owned model.
NOT Buying a Refurbished Linac May Be a Good Choice If…
Reason 1 – You want newer technology than what is currently available in the pre-owned equipment market. There are definite drawbacks to a refurbished linac when compared to a new one. It may be in your best interest to not purchase a refurbished linac if you need the most recent technology on the market (such as dose rate capability in excess of 1,000 MU/min). Pre-owned machines may not have the technology as advanced as your facility may need; it is often hard or impossible to find available pre-owned machines that are only 1–3 years old featuring the latest technology.
Reason 2 – You may not have the ability to move or replace it easily in the future. If you don’t wish to move, update, or replace your machine for at least ten years into the future, then new equipment may be a better option. What if, for example, the installation and subsequent removal of the equipment will require expensive construction. In such a case, you may want to buy a new machine than can run for 15+ years, depending on your budget.
Reason 3 – There are financial benefits associated with buying new vs. pre-owned equipment. One of the most important factors is the budget for acquiring a machine. Buying new versus pre-owned is great if you do not have a budgetary limit for this purchase. If there are limited financial constraints, then you have more flexibility. Also, some facilities may be able to acquire tax rebates, better leasing options, or better depreciation when purchasing new linacs rather than pre-owned ones. If you are able to offset the increased cost of a new linac via rebates, then buying a new system has a definite appeal.
Reason 4 – Buying a new system allows you to secure bundled discounts on software and other accessories. Another consideration is the possibility of a discount when buying new: some manufacturers will offer a special bundle discount, which can provide significant value on software purchases. As when buying a home computer, acquiring new technology may incentivize the manufacturer to provide essential peripherals (like software) at a discounted rate. For example, buying a linac, a treatment planning system, and an oncology information system all together may yield significant savings versus buying each system individually.
Reason 5 – Your competition has bought new equipment and you don’t want to be perceived as falling behind the newest technology. A fifth reason for acquiring a new linac may not be as obvious as the others. A newer machine can be invaluable if your facility is in an area with a lot of competition. Having the newest equipment and technology can aid you in attracting talent to your facility, and can also be an aid in marketing your facility, giving you “bragging rights” over your competitors.
Now that we’ve covered a few of the reasons a pre-owned linear accelerator may not be a good option, here are some examples highlighting when purchase a pre-owned linear accelerator IS a good idea.
Buying a Refurbished Linac May be a Good Choice If…
Reason 1 – If you are treating few patients (less than 8 or 10 per day, as a general rule) and may not have the revenue to sustain a more expensive machine. Pre-Owned linear accelerators have lower cost and lower monthly lease payments. This means fewer patients to cover your costs.
Reason 2 – If you live in a country or region where reimbursement rates are low and you are a clinic that must operate profitably to exist (vs. a public clinic that is not concerned with profitability).
Reason 3 – If you will be using the linear accelerator in a limited manner, without the need for all of its technologies. For example, if you are treating pets or other animals and do not require advanced technologies, such as in the veterinarian or research fields; or if you are using only electrons to treat skin cancer for humans; or even if you are using it for non-medical, industrial purposes to image materials.
Reason 4 – If you intend on buying new, more expensive equipment and technology in the next 4-7 years, but cannot afford it now and want to build up the revenue base of the practice. We’ve had many clients who intend to buy the latest machine, but just don’t want to risk it just yet. Buying a pre-owned machine can mitigate the risk of not being able to afford a brand new, multi-million dollar linear accelerator system.
Reason 5 – If you have only one linear accelerator in your center, need to move locations, and can’t afford to have any down time. One of our customers needed to move facilities, but could not afford the down-time associated with a linear accelerator relocation (3-4 weeks). So instead, they purchased a nearly identical linear accelerator to the one they were using, and installed it at the new center. When the new center was completed, they removed and sold their original machine. The result — no lost patients, as they were moved seamlessly from one machine to an almost identical one, from one day to the next.
Reason 6 – If you want a backup machine to protect your practice in case the main linear accelerator becomes inoperable or must be replaced. Running a linear accelerator with a heavy patient load is wonderful — until the machine requires maintenance. The headache of re-scheduling patients and the uncertainty can really hurt a practice. Many facilities prudently install “back-up” machines just for this reason. And there is no reason for a back-up machine to be newer than the main linear accelerator in use. Hence a pre-owned unit becomes a good solution.
Reason 7 – If you need a temporary solution while your new center is being built. If you need a temporary linear accelerator solution, renting a pre-owned linear accelerator can be a great solution. Of course, you’ll need the vault to house it.
For more details on linac pricing, see our Pricing Guidelines. R.O.S. is the world leader on pre-owned linear accelerator and diagnostic imaging equipment sales, since 1997. Call us if we can help you build or grow your center (858) 454-5100.
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