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Guest Editorial: Bruce Smith on MRI

Options for MRI Service and Maintenance

Bruce Smith, President Medical Systems Technologies


If you are reading this there is a good chance you know Acertara for ultrasound and ultrasound probe expertise, test equipment and repair.  Did you know the same opportunities for repair exist for MRI?  Parts, part repair and independent service are available for MRI and have the potential to save you large sums of money on your MRI maintenance and repairs. 

The truth is most of the third-party service organizations use OEM trained technicians and engineers.  OEMs may imply that if you’re off OEM contract your magnet is likely to fail costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.  If the magnet were at such risk, why would the OEMs offer service contracts for less than the price of a magnet?  Why would OEMs offer service contracts on competitor’s equipment? That would certainly be opening them up to costly magnet replacements.  Research magnet failures for yourself.  Magnet failures are very rare regardless of who maintains your system, OEM or third party or in-house talent. This of course assumes proper care and feeding of your magnet.  It is NEVER a good idea to cut corners on magnet maintenance.  The majority of magnet failures you will find in your search will be during magnet relocation, i.e not even connected to the system when the fail, (this brings up an entirely different subject of hiring a qualified and experienced rigging crew).

There are three basic options for maintaining and repairing you MRI; OEM, third party (ISO), or in-house with backup from the OEM or ISO as time and materials work.  The outside contracts can get very complicated and will themselves vary depending on service level. Contract prices vary with the level of service you receive and, interestingly, with the time of day the service is performed.  One of my pet peeves is the self-perpetuating service contract. These contracts self-renew unless you opt out some time in advance of the expiration date.  Be aware of the wording in OEM and ISO a service contracts.  OEM, ISO and in-house service are all viable options for MRI maintenance and service.  A combination of these options is often a good cost-effective solution. Like any service contract the holder of the contract is not going to quote a price below their expected costs.  If they did they wouldn’t be in business very long.  You, as the MRI owner, need a qualified person with the expertise to maintain and repair your MRI regardless of who they work for.

Take a look at your MRI repair and maintenance history.  Do you have systems that requires constant attention?  Do you have systems that run without issue and PM’s are all they every really need? Are you somewhere in the middle?  Given a stable system there is an opportunity for big savings by performing the PM’s in house or via third party. Add to this an in-house resource that can assess issues and decide what the likely causes of an issue are (First Look) and the potential for savings increases dramatically.  An in house “first look” could lead to a solution directly without bringing in an outside person and is likely to reduce the time an outside expert will need to assess and repair your system should that be necessary.  If you have the luxury of time, having failed parts and subsystems repaired rather than exchanged saves 50% to 90% on parts costs.

Risk assessment for each MRI system is the key to determining the best means of maintaining and repairing you MRI.  If you have a high maintenance system, seriously consider staying with the OEM.  Their direct connection to the factory could be helpful for keeping your downtime to a minimum. For more stable systems, ISOs and in-house programs may decrease you overall cost of ownership.  The savings could be significant.


About the Author, Bruce Smith:

Bruce has been involved with medical imaging for over 35 years, well over 30 of those concentrated in the MRI arena. Bruce has held positions in Engineering, manufacturing, project management, technical management and quality for GE Healthcare and Sonora Medical Systems before starting Medical Systems Technologies. Medical Systems Technologies was conceived, and is run today, as a way to reduce cost of ownership of MRI by providing depot level repair that reduces parts costs for owners and service organizations.  For more information visit


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September 11, 2017 Newsletter