Things to Consider When Buying a Mobile MRI Machine

AUTHOR: Jeff Hough September 16, 2019

Things to Consider When Buying a Mobile MRI Machine


If you are experiencing space constraints, variable utilization, or want to avoid construction to accommodate an additional MRI machine then you should consider a Mobile MRI. Read on to find out more about mobile MRIs and if they are the right fit for you.

The MRI machine is one of, if not the most, powerful diagnostic tools in modern imaging. Staying current and providing your patients access to these machines will help your organization retain patients and provide better care. Most MRI machines are installed in specialized suites that have inherent limitations: space constraints, hefty construction costs, and variation in utilization. These constraints might make a mobile MRI machine an attractive option for your practice.

A mobile MRI machine is a self-contained system installed in a 48’ shielded semi trailer. The trailer includes space for the scanner, operator’s console, external components (computer, gradient cabinets, etc.), air conditioners, and occasionally, a changing room. Because they are self-contained, the systems are easily deployed as long as your facility has the connections and exterior space.

Mobile MRI machines do have some functional trade-offs, however. These include scanner options, space, price, and magnet types. In the sections below we’ll cover the basics, from design to deployment to give you a better understanding of the capabilities of a mobile MRI machine.

Mobile MRI Machine Models

The major MRI manufacturers have designed a set of scanners to be mobile-ready. These mobile MRI scanners are designed to fit in a 48’ trailer and better stand up against transport and deployment. The most common mobile systems are:

A common theme between all the mobile MRI machines is the 1.5T field strength. With rare exception, 3.0T systems are not available in a mobile format because of their stronger magnetic fields.

Trailers

Most mobile MRI machines are housed in a 48’ semi-trailer. These are typically provided by three companies: Kentucky Trailer, MedCoach, and Ellias & Watts. The full dimensions are 48’ L x 8.5’ W x 13.5 H.

Other configurations include the 14’x60’ trailer or modular building, which offer a more spacious footprint, in exchange for mobility. These alternative options are great choices for facilities that want a semi-permanent mobile unit for longer term usage.

OEM Built vs 3rd Party Built

The buildout connects the system to the trailer. An OEM built mobile is one where the manufacturer and trailer provider work together to build the system. The primary advantage with an OEM built trailer is certification for OEM service. If service by the OEM is a must, then make sure the system was built by the OEM.

The alternative to the OEM system is a 3rd party-built system, there are a number of excellent independent companies that can build a complete mobile MRI machine to your specifications. The advantage with this route is price. A pre-owned mobile MRI machine and trailer can be married together at a significant savings over new.

Service

Service and maintenance are critical to the uninterrupted use of your scanner. Service costs covering the MRI machine in a mobile unit that is parked will be close to the same price as a fixed system. If the system is moving between facilities, expect the cost to be slightly higher.

Separate from system maintenance is coverage for the trailer and trailer’s system. Trailer service is optional and covers components like the air conditioner, chiller, electrical, doors, and gates. These are separate from the system service because different groups work on the various components, similar to how a different maintenance group would work on the building where a fixed MRI machine is located.

Placement

Mobile MRI machines have the advantage of being deployed precisely where they are required.Still, a mobile MRI machine requires site planning and a suitable location for operation. Site planning includes the pad, power, connection, and building access.

The pad is the parking spot for the mobile MRI machine. Because of the unit’s weight and magnetic field, it's recommended that nonferrous reinforcement is used within the concrete and that the pad is located in an area removed from traffic, vibration and obstructions.

The standard power requirement to operate a mobile MRI machine is 480 Volt AC, 3 Phase power fused at 150 Amps. Although this is the standard for most systems, confirm the manufacturer’s requirements for your specific system. In addition to the power requirements, telephone and data services need to be connected at the site.

Your actual requirements will vary state by state and machine by machine. Be sure to consult your service provider, and state and local laws in the planning process.

Use cases

Short Term Rental

Need a system during the replacement or upgrade of your fixed site MRI? Seeing a spike in demand and need to accommodate additional patients over a short period of time? In these cases, a mobile MRI machine rental is a great solution.

A mobile MRI machine rental can be classified by use of the scanner for 12 months or less. Rental prices are generally all inclusive, meaning the monthly rent includes the system and service. (Note: some providers may charge additional delivery, transport, and applications training fees).

Shorter terms combined with all-inclusive pricing makes the short-term rental a premium option. Rental rates for economy systems start around $25,000/month and can range as high as $50,000/month for a premium system.

Mobile Lease

A mobile MRI machine lease has the flexibility of a rental without the burden of ownership. Lease terms can be set to your duration with the most popular falling terms between 36- and 60-month terms. Under a fair market value lease, you have four options at the end of the initial lease:

  • Option #1: Renew at the market rate
  • Option #2: Purchase the unit at the market rate
  • Option #3: Extended month to month, for extra flexibility
  • Option #4: Return the equipment

Because the leasing company holds the residual risk of the equipment, the monthly payment is lower which can help maintain consistent cash flows.

Service under a mobile MRI machine lease is often separated from the equipment lease payment. This enables you to choose your service provider and maintain the benefits of your preferred service provider or multi-vendor contract.

Purchase

Purchase is a good option if you know the unit will be in place for a long period of time and your preference is to own the mobile MRI. Practices that purchase their mobiles often make the unit a semi-permanent fixture. Walkways or connections directly with the building can be constructed seamlessly to the mobile MRI machine.

Options for purchase include new from the OEM, refurbished from the OEM, or qualified third party, or custom built with your choice of trailer or modular building.

Conclusion

A mobile MRI machine is an excellent solution for facilities that are short on space, need a replacement for an existing unit, or are dealing with higher demand. There are rental, lease, and purchase options to fit most business cases and the best place to start is by contacting a trusted partner like Meridian Leasing. We’re here to help get you started with the right unit and with the right finance plan. Call +1 (888) 255-5320 or send an email to sales@meridianleasing.com for product and price related details or to speak with a medical equipment specialist. If you have a specific model in mind, contact us to request a customized quote.

Jeff Hough

Jeff Hough
Program Manager, Healthcare
Meridian Leasing

Meridian SELECT Certified Refurbished Equipment comes with the confidence of knowing that you don't have to sacrifice quality and performance for price.

“Meridian sat down with us to understand how we could lower our costs while still enhancing the services that we provide.”

Karen Wyble

CEO, St. Martin Hospital

Karen Wyble
Karen Wyble

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