It is a daily commitment when you are a cancer patient undergoing radiation therapy. You must show up for therapy nearly every day for weeks at a time. Although radiation therapy is non-invasive and you may find it to be a relatively comfortable procedure, it is disruptive to your everyday life. The last thing you want to hear is that you must travel far out of your way for each treatment because your radiology oncology center’s treatment equipment is down.
Moving a Linear Accelerator Without the Downtime
Temporarily shutting down radiation treatment services was a scenario that a San Diego facility did not want to create for their patients. The dilemma for the group was a planned move to a new building. Options seemed limited: put patients’ treatments on hold while their linear accelerator was offline during the move, send patients for radiation treatment elsewhere and thus risk losing patients to other facilities, or face the considerable expense of purchasing a new linear accelerator.
What Does It Take to Move a Linear Accelerator?
Moving a linear accelerator to a different location is not trivial. The machine is massive, weighing over 25,000 pounds (11,340 kg) and standing 8 feet high (2.43 m). Being the technical wonder that it is, a linear accelerator is very sensitive and fragile. A move must be accomplished with utmost care, and that takes time; the relocation can take anywhere from four to eight weeks.
Putting Treatment on Hold
The very nature of radiation therapy makes suspending treatment a dangerous proposition. Radiation therapy destroys the DNA of cancerous cells at a faster rate than healthy cells, a real advantage when treating cancer. Healthy cells bounce back from radiation faster than cancer cells; by the next day’s treatment, they’re already recovering while the cancer cells are becoming weaker. Interrupting treatment gives cancer cells the respite they need to grow strong again.
Weighing Whether to Purchase a Replacement
Most hospitals and clinics facing relocation will either shift patients to a second machine in their network (if one exists with extra capacity), or will rent a portable or modular vault to serve as an interim solution, easily costing more than $500,000.
So, what about buying a new machine for a smooth transition? You can, but it is costly. According to the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index (July 2015), the average cost of a new linear accelerator is $2,928,771. A refurbished linear accelerator is substantially less expensive. Either way, a facility that does not have a second machine available, or the money allocated to rent a second linear accelerator, can expect to interrupt patient treatment for several weeks.
The No-Cost Solution
For the previously mentioned San Diego facility, the answer was to purchase a refurbished linear accelerator. Their search went worldwide as refurbished medical equipment solution providers competed to find the right machine for their situation. The requirements were very specific, in terms of energy levels. The machine desired was rare in the market; less than 20 percent of linear accelerators offered the same configuration as the facility’s existing machine.
Radiology Oncology Systems (ROS) of San Diego discovered the perfect fit after an extensive global search. ROS was able to acquire a nearly identical machine, a Varian Medical Systems Clinac© iX with RapidArc® and cone beam computed tomography (CBCT). The facility was able to provide its patients with seamless, uninterrupted treatment.
The move to a new building occurred in the summer of 2015 with zero downtime. The transition was executed without incurring additional costs. This exceptional experience was accomplished by selling the facility’s original linear accelerator for essentially what it cost to purchase and install the refurbished machine. In other words, revenue from the sale of the existing machine covered not only the purchase of a replacement, but the costs of shipping and installing it as well.
When Buying a Used Linear Accelerator Makes More Sense
Buying a used system doesn’t necessarily mean purchasing dated technology. Many newer machines can be found on the used equipment market. Purchasers are able to obtain the latest technology at a more affordable price. Also, machines are often upgraded along the way with platforms developed for used systems.
Facility response to purchasing used medical equipment is positive. An industry survey conducted by ROS in August 2015 showed that 63 percent of facilities surveyed had purchased used medical equipment in the past: of those, 96 percent reported that their experiences with these purchases had been neutral-to-positive. In addition, almost 50 percent of all respondents indicated that their facilities would likely purchase at least one used/refurbished machine within two years.
About Radiology Oncology Systems
Radiology Oncology Systems, headquartered in San Diego, California, provides medical equipment solutions to customers worldwide, including hospitals, clinics, veterinary practices, OEMs, and other equipment and service providers. ROS specializes in CT, MRI, nuclear medicine, linear accelerator, and oncology equipment, and also sells related upgrades, products, and accessories. Radiology Oncology Systems is a US distributor of CYRPA patient positioning lasers and the SafeCT dose-reduction software system. For more information, please visit www.oncologysystems.com.
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