As a longtime trainer on electrosurgical products, I’m often asked questions about test equipment and, more particularly, this question: “Can you tell me which ESU analyzer is best?” But, it’s like asking me, “How many calories are in a meal?” With either question, the answer depends on a substantial number of situational variables that can be evaluated and determined on a case-by-case basis.
Based on my experience with a variety of analyzers, I do have a well-informed opinion of which analyzer I believe is best, but I’d rather answer in terms of what’s most important to the person asking the question. For some it’s price or accuracy; for others it might be features, portability or auto-sequencing capabilities.
In this article, I want to point out some of the key factors that should be taken into consideration when making this important capital equipment decision. I’m particularly motivated to provide this information because I’ve seen and heard so many misrepresentations, omission of facts, half-truths and misleading statements by a variety of test equipment vendors. Overall, my advice is to make sure you’re well informed. Don’t make a decision based on the “best-thing-since-sliced-bread” claims of a salesperson or fancy marketing materials. Put in the effort. Do your research with an eye on the “big picture” objective.
First, no company provides a perfect solution when it comes to ESU testing. All analyzers have their merits and faults. Following are eight factors to consider as you evaluate ESU analyzers.
Is the analyzer capable of testing the generator to the specifications defined in the service manual (e.g., 1%, 3% or 5% accuracy)? Many analyzers can’t meet the stated specs, but the ESU vendors won’t tell you that. Instead, they’ll use fancy sales jargon or half-truths to make you believe it’s fully compliant. Further, is there empirical data (in an easy to understand format) that supports their claims?
Many generators now have pulsed outputs (e.g., Olympus, Conmed, Soring, BOWA, Codman, Ellman, Macan, Sutter, KLS Martin and ERBE). Even generators that have been around for years like the Conmed 5000 and 2450 have pulsed output modes. These outputs cannot be measured by most analyzers. If your hospital decides to switch to different ESU generators – generators that have pulsed mode outputs – you’ll have to replace your current ESU analyzer. Ouch!
Ease of Use
Is the analyzer easy to use? Is the GUI intuitive? How many manual interactions (cable or jumper moves) are required during a PM?
Does the analyzer have true auto-sequencing abilities? Many vendors say they do, but that depends on how they define auto-sequencing. Be very careful here. True auto-sequencing of PM steps will save considerable time and, of course, time savings translates into real money. Have the vendor demonstrate this feature to you and then you be the judge of the associated time savings.
Longevity for Intended Use
Does the analyzer solve both the present and future needs? Can the analyzer be upgraded easily if output requirements change?
Many times, the size and weight of an analyzer is an important consideration. Consider how the analyzer is going to be used? Is it going to be carried from site to site or is it primarily used on the test bench? It is worthwhile to consider the size/weight vs. capabilities tradeoff as part of your evaluation.
Experience and Reputation of Equipment Vendor
What is the history of the vendor? Can you gain access to technical documentation and online help easily? Is it a hassle to resolve issues with them? Are repair prices reasonable?
I left one of the top considerations for last: price. Typically, biomed managers and “bean counters” are interested in the lowest price. But is it price or cost that should be of most interest to them? Price is a one-time thing; cost takes into consideration many factors over a product’s lifetime. Test equipment vendors compete to offer the lowest price, but, when considering effectiveness, features, ease of use and long-term applicability (considering ever changing technological requirements), it should be the overall cost that is of most interest. As Zig Zigler once said, “Wouldn’t it be better to pay a little more than you planned, than a little less than you should.” In my opinion, you should take the above factors into consideration when considering an analyzer’s cost.
I hope this information makes it easier for you to make an informed decision on your next ESU analyzer purchase.
Dale Munson is an accomplished corporate trainer, writer, and speaker. He has more than 35 years of experience designing training programs, which are uniquely targeted to his technical audiences.
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