Specialist vs. Generalist

Specialists versus Generalists

Lately, every week, it seems as though one Independent Service Organization (ISO) is acquiring another. The goal may be financial gain for their investors, or an attempt to become a one-stop-shop for their customers. Maybe, and most-likely, both. As convenient as a one-stop-shop could be, it makes the most sense to follow the lead of OEMs. OEMs rely upon individual specialists versus generalists to deliver consistent, high-quality, high-performance results. This parallels a comparison between Generalists versus Specialists in our healthcare environment.

About your health


When seeking a physician, there are generally two categories – a generalist and a specialist. A generalist, such as your primary care provider (PCP), has very broad training, has a wide variety of experience and is able to treat most ailments. A specialist, such as a cardiologist, has had concentrated training and intensive experience that is focused on one specific ailment or anatomy part. For serious ailments or diseases, I will always choose a specialist whose sole focus and experience targets my affliction.

The One-Stop-Shop

The Innovatus commercial team has had numerous calls where potential clients have said, “We want a one-stop shop for everything ultrasound or MRI”. Meaning, they’d like a single provider to supply them with parts, field service, tech support, training, and depot-based repair on complementary devices such as ultrasound probes and MRI coils. This would be an outstanding solution for any health care organization or asset management company. In concept, the one-stop-shop is ideal. In reality, few (if any) single providers claiming to be one-stop-shops can match the consistent high-quality output and consistent performance delivery of specialty organizations.

New Device Manufacturing

Did you know … many OEMs outsource much of their manufacturing to specialty organizations? For example, very few, if any, OEMs actually manufacture printed circuit boards or develop the software used in their systems. Look at the back-end processor of many ultrasound systems. It consists of an off-the-shelf PC running a minimalist version of Windows, Linux or other OS. Network, graphics, sound cards and PC power supplies are, typically, high-end off-the-shelf cards or components with custom enhancements. OEMs have realized that it makes sense to partner with specialized organizations to provide them with high-quality solutions meeting the detailed specifications they require.

US Probes and MRI Coils are not accessories

The same is true for instruments such as ultrasound probes and MRI coils. These devices are not accessories. They are separate Class 2 medical devices with their own 510k and unique design, functionality, and safety features. Innovatus is an FDA-registered manufacturer of ultrasound probes for several prominent OEMs. One of our legacy companies was also a contract manufacturer of MRI coils for several OEMs. The engineers and teams in our Denver Center of Excellence for Design and Manufacturing take an ultrasound probe, component, or other assembly from concept to finished goods based upon specifications from an OEM. View our FDA registration here

As convenient as a one-stop-shop would be, the reality is that it would be challenging to support an entire modality end-to-end, and even harder to master it. The saying jack-of-all trades, master of none might be applicable here. Support within just the ultrasound modality consists of the following types of organizations.

  • Dealers/Brokers: Buy and sell new or used systems in-bulk, harvest systems to sell parts, components, probes, accessories, etc.
  • Service Providers: Perform preventive maintenance, respond to service calls, perform system repair, sell/install replacement parts, provide technical support, etc.
  • Training Organizations: Provide education, technical support, technical training
  • Specialty Organizations: Perform specific repair functions such as component level PCB repair, probe repair, engineering services, etc.

All of these organizational types serve very vital roles in support of the HTM community. Many of us rely upon each other to help our customers maintain uptime, positive workflow and maximized throughput. We’re a tight community.

One ISO’s recent acquisition activities spans multiple modalities and multiple specialties within each

  • Cardiology equipment and supplies
  • Medical batteries, imaging parts
  • Endoscope repair, biomedical parts
  • CT, MR, and functional imaging sales, parts, and service
  • Ultrasound system sales
  • Ultrasound system service
  • MRI coil repairs
  • Ultrasound probe repairs
  • Ultrasound system parts
  • X-ray sales and service, dental imaging
  • De-installation/Installation services
  • Resale of medical imaging devices
  • Imaging device rentals
  • Veterinary imaging equipment
  • Technical training, and applications training

The saying jack-of-all trades, master of none might be applicable here

Here are a few examples of the levels of granularity needed to master just supporting the ultrasound modality

  • The front-end processor of today’s full-size ultrasound scanners may contain up to a dozen PCBs. Each PCB has various hardware versions, and each hardware version may allow for several different firmware versions. Add the system software, which may or may not be compatible with various revisions of hardware and firmware that you need.
  • The Philips X5-1 ultrasound probe has had over 12-different revisions. Why? What’s changed? Is newer better?
  • The acoustic lens and matching layers on the Philips X7-2t and X8-2t consists of 10 layers. Why are there so many? What function does each serve?
  • There’s not a standard cable length for an ultrasound probe and cable replacements are not plug and play. It’s why Innovatus fabricates over 100-different wiring harnesses. Each has specific characteristics to match the required specifications of the cable it is replacing.

Benefits of Working with Specialists versus Generalists

As convenient as a one-stop-shop could be, it makes the most sense to follow the lead of OEMs and rely upon individual specialty providers to deliver high-quality, high-performance results. Companies that specialize can offer the most sustainable solutions.

Consider the following:

Specialist versus Generalist
  • That which was repairable last week or last month, would be repairable moving forward … each time and every time a need arises.
  • Repair capabilities would not be based upon the parts which were harvested from last-week’s purchases, but upon a qualified supply chain of replacement parts.
  • Quality solutions would be based upon verified and validated processes performed by technicians specifically trained to perform those tasks.  

At Innovatus, rather than trying to be a one-stop shop, we focus on doing just a few things, and doing them very well … so well, that we’re trusted by OEMs and some of the largest health care and asset management organizations. It’s why we can offer the longest warranty periods in the industry: 12-months on ALL standard probes, 6-months on TEE probes, 3D probes and MRI coils.

Trust your medical imaging devices to specialists versus generalists.

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