Mobile MRI Rental: Is it The Right Choice For Your Center?

MRIs are extremely beneficial to hospitals and imaging centers that have them as they can greatly improve their diagnostic capabilities. However, an MRI system takes up a significant amount of space, requiring its own special room that can safely contain the magnetic field it produces. However, a fixed MRI system isn’t your only option. If you’re on the fence about buying and installing an expensive MRI system, look into renting a mobile MRI unit instead.

Why Rent A Mobile MRI Unit?

A mobile MRI unit consists of a large trailer that is custom designed to house an MRI system. These units are parked outside hospitals and other medical facilities. The following are a few of the reasons why you might want to consider renting a mobile MRI unit:

Test out if having an MRI on site would be beneficial:

While MRIs are hugely beneficial for diagnostic imaging, not all facilities have a need for them. If you’re unsure whether the cost of investing in a permanent MRI system would be justified, rent a mobile MRI unit as a trial run. If you end up using your mobile MRI unit a lot and it attracts more patients to your facility, the cost of buying an MRI may very well be worth it. However, if your mobile MRI unit does not get much use, you’ll have saved your facility a substantial amount of money on an investment that may not pan out.

If you need a temporary one while your other system is down or being fixed or replaced:

MRI systems can take a while to be repaired, especially if certain components need to be ordered for replacement. This can result in lengthy downtime if something has gone wrong with your facilities permanent MRI system. Instead of having to delay your patients’ appointments or having to send them to another medical facility that has a working MRI, you could rent a mobile MRI unit to serve your patients while yours is repaired. Mobile MRI units can be rented on a short-term basis and can be very useful as a temporary replacement for fixed MRI systems being repaired or replaced to avoid downtime.

If you need a long-term rental before securing budget to purchase:

Your facilities capital budget may not have room for purchasing an MRI system — MRI systemss cost a significant amount of money, after all. However, most facility budgets have a separate operating budget you can use to rent a mobile MRI. If your patients need MRI scans, renting a mobile MRI unit temporarily may be your best option. Fortunately, you can rent mobile MRI units for months at a time–some companies even have multi-year rental contracts available.

If you have overflow patients/backlogged appointments:

You may already have a working MRI system; however, you may not be able to keep up with your patients’ needs for MRI imaging. If your appointments are beginning to back up, consider renting a mobile MRI unit for a short period of time to take care of your backlog of patients.

If Multiple locations will share one system:

If you have more than one medical facility in need of MRI capabilities, renting a mobile MRI unit may be more efficient than installing MRI systems in every location. Your mobile MRI unit can simply go from one location to the next at different times within the day or on different days of the week.

Possible Drawbacks of Renting a Mobile MRI

There are certainly a lot of benefits to renting a mobile MRI unit; however, consider the potential drawbacks as well before coming to a decision. The following are a few potential drawbacks to keep in mind:

  • There can be additional costs – Besides the monthly rate, there are a few other costs that you will need to take into account. Most mobile MRI rentals will also require a security deposit that may be lost if the unit is damaged during the rental period. You will also have to pay for the costs of transporting the mobile MRI to your location, cleaning the mobile MRI unit following the end of your rental period, and training for your staff if they need it.
  • Renting can be more expensive – Although buying an MRI system is more expensive upfront , it will be more affordable over the long term. It is much cheaper to rent a mobile unit for a week than it is to buy an MRI, but it will most likely be more affordable to buy an MRI than it would be to keep renting a mobile unit for multiple years.
  • Equipment may be lower quality or outdated – To make the most money off their mobile MRI equipment, vendors rent them out for more than a few years, which means many of the mobile MRI units may not be as up-to-date as the newest top-of-the-line MRI systems available on the market right now. Keep in mind that you are renting used equipment and you have no idea how well it was treated before you.
  • Mobile units aren’t very environmentally-friendly – Considering the size of the trailers that the MRI systems are housed in, you can imagine how much gas is guzzled getting to and from your facility. Your carbon footprint will be even larger if you are renting an MRI unit to be driven to and from several different facilities.
  • There might be space issues – Mobile MRIs take up a lot of space, which means it will occupy a large area within your parking lot. Not only does there have to be enough space for the trailer, but also enough space for the trailer to maneuver in and out of. Make sure that you have the space available directly outside of your facility for a mobile MRI unit before you decide to rent one.

Costs: Renting vs Buying

If the reason you’re considering a mobile MRI rental is due to the cost of a fixed MRI system, weigh the costs of buying and renting before you make your decision. The following is a general breakdown of how much you can expect it to cost to rent and buy an MRI:

Average Cost of Renting an MRI

The cost of renting a mobile MRI unit ranges from $18,000 to $45,000 a month. The costs vary based on the rental period (shorter terms will cost more than longer terms) as well as the type of MRI system you’re renting (a 3T MRI will cost more than a 1.5T MRI). Security deposits will vary based on the vendor, although you will receive your deposit back if you return the mobile MRI in good condition. Cleaning fees and application training costs vary as well. Expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 for transportation costs.

Average Cost of Buying an MRI

Fixed MRI systems can vary greatly in cost. The lowest end systems can cost as little as $150,000, but they are limited in their capabilities. Most typical new 1.5T and 3.0T MRIs cost between $1.2 million and $3 million while refurbished system can cost between $400,000 to $800,000 However, you will also need to build a specialized room to house your MRI system, which can cost upwards of $100,000 or more. Then there’s the continued cost of maintaining the system. You will need to pay for repairs and replacement parts throughout the course of the MRI’s lifespan. Add to that the cost of refilling the liquid helium regularly, which can be quite expensive.

How Long do You Need to Rent an MRI Machine?

The longer you rent a mobile MRI unit, the less it will cost. For example, renting a mobile MRI unit on a week-by-week basis for an entire month will cost more than just renting it on a month-by-month basis for a single month. A longer rental term guarantees the vendor income on the unit, since they won’t have to find another renter for some time.

If you decide to rent a mobile MRI unit, figure out how long you need it so that you can enter into a rental contract period that benefits you most. If your facility simply needs a temporary MRI system while your current system is being repaired or replaced, renting on a short-term basis is your best bet. The same is true if you’re just trying to clear some of your patient backlog.  However, if you’re trying to determine the demand for an MRI at your facility, a long-term rental will provide you with more information to help you decide if purchasing an MRI will be a good investment for your facility.

Does a Higher Cost Justify The Convenience of Mobile Rental?

While you might save some money upfront by renting a mobile MRI unit, it becomes more cost-effective long-term to invest in a fixed MRI system. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a rental. Renting a mobile MRI unit can provide your facility with many benefits, especially if you don’t have room in your budget to purchase an MRI, are unsure if a full purchase is justified by the demand of your patients, or are currently having your existing MRI system repaired or replaced.

Not only is renting a mobile MRI unit a great short-term solution, it can be the first step towards purchasing a permanent MRI for your facility. It all depends on what your facilities needs are. Whatever your decision, be sure to locate a reputable provider.