Digital sensors and marriage?

June 1, 2012
When purchasing digital sensors, imaging software is always included. Most digital sensor packages come with ...

By Jim Ramey

When purchasing digital sensors, imaging software is always included. Most digital sensor packages come with what I call a “closed” software system. This means that the software included with the sensor will work only with that specific sensor. Unfortunately, most doctors spend all of their time researching the sensor itself, but don’t think about the implications of purchasing sensors that are part of a “closed” software system.

In most cases, there is an initial honeymoon period for a practice that purchases new sensor technology. During this period, there are normally no real issues with a closed software system. Most of us don’t even recognize there is a “marriage” until the honeymoon is over — i.e., the sensor breaks and we need a new one. Then, when we make a call for a quote on a new sensor, we find out that the new sensor will cost substantially more than the original! And, when we shop for reasonably priced sensors from other manufacturers, we find that no other sensors will work with our closed software system.

Now we realize what happened — we’ve already gotten married! When a practice purchases that original sensor, it is, in effect, marrying the company that sold it. If the practice wants or needs a new sensor, it has to purchase that company’s product and pay the price … whatever that might be. There is no courting of other sensors. If you want to keep your practice happy and running smoothly without any interruption in the ability to capture X-rays, then you do as you are told — pay a premium for the new sensor!

To get out of this situation, you must unfortunately go through a painful divorce and start dating all over again. You have to let various sales reps start courting, research newly available products, and decide which sensor has the best image quality, the best overall value, and fits best with the products you’re already using.

The terrible thing is that many doctors make the same mistake again! They find a sensor that fits their budget, fits their practice, and makes the staff happy, but the new software works with only one sensor — the one that comes with it.

If you find yourself in this situation, ask, “What can I do to avoid ‘marrying’ another sensor manufacturer?” The answer is simple — look at the imaging software first, and then look for the sensors that you like. This is the only way to make sure that your next relationship with an imaging software program will last. This will give you some peace of mind that down the road you won’t have to switch imaging systems again.

All imaging applications have certain basic features, but they also have unique characteristics, the most important being what sensors the imaging application will work with besides the company’s. Make sure to get a list of other sensors that work with the software application, and review it. Then ask, “Would any of these sensors be ones I would use in my practice?”

The best thing you can do is find an open imaging system, such as DentiMax, that works not only with the sensor the company sells, but also with just about every other sensor on the market. An open imaging system will keep you from having to start all over again when you need a new sensor. You’ll have the freedom to find the most cost-effective sensor, with the newest technology, and with the best image quality, regardless of what company makes that sensor.

So when you’re in the market for a digital sensor, whether you’re thinking about switching from film to digital or you find yourself needing to divorce your existing imaging system, investigate the imaging software system first and make sure that it is open software. This will prevent heartache down the road! And, more importantly, you won’t have to worry about hiring a divorce lawyer.

James W. Ramey holds a B.S. degree in management information systems from the University of Akron. For the last eight years, he has worked exclusively with digital radiography technology and has experience with most sensors on the market, including digital, panoramic, cephalometric, and intraoral cameras. You may contact Jim Ramey at [email protected].

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