By Dara O’Brien

Monique Rasband, KLAS Senior Research Director

Monique Rasband, KLAS Senior Research Director

Wide-ranging advances in technology, enhanced customer service, and aggressive pricing have revolutionized the ultrasound landscape. State-of-the-art systems deliver faster, clearer imaging than ever before. Which vendors are delivering the greatest time-savings—at the best value? A new KLAS report, “Ultrasound 2014: Saving Time and Money with Workflow Automation,” surveyed providers to find out.

The report cites GE and Philips as top performers in a highly competitive field.

“GE and Philips are definitely standing out, but not by a lot,” observed Monique Rasband, KLAS Senior Research Director and the report’s author. “Right now, the vendors are raising the bar for each other, which puts providers in a really good spot.”

The report asked providers who were using the latest ultrasound technology about their workflow experience, including average minutes saved and system purchase price. In relation to overall performance and average minutes saved, GE’s LOGIQ E9 earned the highest score (90.6), barely edging out the Philips iU22 (89.9) in a virtual tie.

Toshiba’s Aplio 500, last year’s top performer, moved to third place this time around. The report noted a perception among providers that Toshiba is falling behind. Respondents reported dissatisfaction with the Aplio 500’s functionality and the company’s account management. Siemens is also trailing, despite customers’ acknowledgement of efforts to improve the S2000 and positive response to the S3000.

GE customers report the biggest time-savings across all scan types, with an average reduction of almost 7 minutes per scan. However, differing needs and circumstances between segments render quantification of time-savings imprecise. “When we talk about automation and workflow, it’s hard to boil it down,” explained Rasband. “It goes back to what you are doing with the equipment and what applications you need.”

The report reveals that GE, long regarded as having the highest price point, came in more competitive at a lower average price per unit. Philips was found to be most expensive, but delivering technological excellence that made it worth the money to those who purchased. Toshiba was the second most expensive, and several providers felt the technology lagged behind that of GE and Philips. Seimens came in at a higher price point than GE, and customers had concerns about value delivered.

Topline vendor highlights include:

  • GE Healthcare: Positive review of Scan Assistant tool; seen as less costly on average; XDClear recognized as having additional functionality and excellent image resolution.
  • Philips: Providers note the organ-identification tool saves time; noticeable time-savings for vascular and extremity scans; intuitive user interface; some dissatisfaction with EPIQ platform, better response to iU22; seen as most expensive on average.
  • Siemens: Fourth out of four; some good time-savings for breast imaging; satisfaction with automated protocol; ACUSON S3000 seen as significant improvement over S2000 with improved image resolution, deeper penetration, and better ergonomics.
  • Toshiba: Ranked third, with a large drop from last year; weakest performance in workflow automation, biggest time-savings in OB/GYN scans; dissatisfaction with service and support, 20% of customers would not buy again.

Need for Speed

As the healthcare landscape continues to shift in response to changes in reimbursements and evolving patient expectations, providers are embracing ultrasound as a safer, less expensive imaging alternative. With increased reliance comes increased demand for time-savings. “Ease of use and automation are incredibly critical,” said Rasband.  “Sonographers don’t have the time to be tweaking buttons to get that perfect image. It’s not just a different generation for ultrasound, but for sonographers as well.”

Rasband also noted an increased reliance on ongoing partnerships between vendors and providers. Vendors are offering incentives, such as upgrade packages that bring older systems in line with newly purchased units, packages that include probes, and other inducements. “It’s about partnership and value rather than exact cost,” she said. “Providers want more options to give a wider variety of patients better care.”

Which systems are providers looking to in the future? According to Rasband, all of them. “We asked people what they would purchase in the next 3 to 5 years, and they don’t know,” she said. “They want to see what the vendors are going to do next.” The KLAS Report sees an increasingly level playing field in the ultrasound marketplace. “I wouldn’t count any vendor out at this point,” concluded Rasband. “In terms of technology, it’s full speed ahead.”

Healthcare providers can receive a complementary copy of the KLAS “Ultrasound 2014” Report by contacting Monique Rasband at [email protected].