When browsing an art museum, it’s easy to note that not all artists are the same. Yet in the imaging device world, its not always so easy to see the difference until after you get a faulty probe repair that puts your device out of operation yet again. Truthfully, probe repair quality can be as diverse as Rembrandt and Picasso.
Receiving a repair to an ultrasound probe that is sustainable and actually extends the longevity of the device requires knowing what questions to ask, and the processes to insist upon from repair providers. Probe repair that truly restores devices to their originally intended standards and performance level is not just a science, its an art that varies according to the vision and passion of the engineers and technicians performing the repair.
Here are just a few musts for probe repair as outlined by our Vice President of Ultrasound at our Ultrasound Center of Excellence, Matt Tomory based upon Innovatus Imaging’s 40 years of probe repair experience.
1. Benchmarking: Because OEM specifications are not known to anyone but themselves, leading repair technicians and engineers invest in researching and testing functions, parts, and outputs of new probes to fully characterize each model. Innovatus Imaging calls this Gold Standard Testing. Findings are used to identify the best processes for returning each individual probe model back to the performance level it was originally intended to achieve, and assure that the device is safe and effective for every patient, every day. Repair providers cannot tell you if they meet OEM standards for repair outputs, they can tell you about the steps taken to fully understand the comprehensive characteristics and specifications of each probe model that they service.
2. Chemical Testing and Biocompatibility: It’s easy and quite common for service providers to just test the integrity of the given repair. Yet this can often lead to more frequent repairs as other parts, not inspected during a repair process, may fail prematurely, which means more down time and repair costs. Look for partners that have a dedicated process for testing all aspects of a probe, far beyond just the items or components repaired, to identify other areas that could lead to secondary failures, putting your probe back out of commission. One-way engineers and technicians, at Innovatus Imaging’s Center of Excellence for Ultrasound, do this is by conducting proprietary chemical tests using numerous manufacturer-recommended as well as unapproved cleaners and disinfectants. Through testing, they are able to identify against potential discoloring and accelerated deterioration, which can lead to damage, probe leakage and image quality degradation. This extra step often extends the life of probes, which if even for just one year, can make any budget go further. Ask your repair provider how they assess chemical compatibility. ISO 10993 describes a standard for assessing the bio-compatibility, safety and risk of materials which come in contact with patients. Innovatus Imaging ensures materials are ISO 10993 compliant..
3 Harvesting vs. Building: Many providers of probe repairs harvest cables and other parts to use in repairs. Often times, these harvested cables have been repaired, shortened or spliced together multiple times which can result in a short-term fix vs. a long-term solution. It’s important to ask repair providers where their replacement parts come from. You should also ask how replacement parts are qualified to assure that they will function properly and enable your probe to perform as originally intended. For example, at Innovatus Imaging, cables are mechanically tested to determine how many times they can bend before compromising performance quality. Finding out how your supplier qualifies and selects parts is key to knowing if you are getting a quick-fix or a sustainable repair.
4 Holistic Testing: As tempting as it is to go with the “quick fix” promise, it can sometimes mean prolonged down time. “Quick” often means the repair only addresses the immediate need and no holistic testing is done to ensure that no other parts of the device have been disrupted during the repair process, or additional issues present. Allowing extra time to assess the whole probe often results in longer lasting repairs and a much lower cost of ownership over the probe’s lifetime. Before choosing a repair partner,be sure to ask about holistic testing applied to each probe serviced.
5 Manufacturing: Providers that perform repairs and manufacture specialty probes have a strong foundation of research, technological innovations and proprietary processes which are often applied to repairs. Being able to apply a manufacturing mindset to probe repair often means more longevity for the repair and a longer lifetime for the probe. Leading, cutting-edge manufacturing processes built upon current research programs often result in new levels of efficiencies while establishing new benchmarks for best practices. Innovatus’ Center of Excellence for Engineering, Design, Testing, Regulatory Compliance and Manufacturing in Denver CO is an FDA registered manufacturing site which invests millions of dollars annually in research to identify new methods greater efficiencies and outcomes for imaging experts and patients, all of which are applied to repair processes for ultrasound probes and MRI coils.
These 5-steps are just a few of the standards you should expect and insist upon for every standard and TEE probe repair. For more information, visit www.innovatusimaging.com.
About the Author: Matt Tomory is Vice President of Ultrasound for Innovatus Imaging’s Ultrasound Center of Excellence. In this role, he assists health care providers nationwide with strategic and investment planning for greater efficiencies for ultrasound transducer repair and maintenance. He has helped facilities of all sizes substantially lower operational costs by extending the lifecycle of standard and TEE probes through Innovatus Imaging’s proprietary repair and preventive processes. Matt is a frequent presenter at industry events nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.