It’s not just the price tag that has been the problem for Lowell Hospital, the first new MRI scanners in the country in more than two decades.
Its equipment has also been plagued with some issues.
The first Lowell MRI scanners, designed to diagnose cancers and other diseases, were first installed in 2002.
But as the industry has grown, the price of the machines has escalated, causing the hospitals to turn to an array of cheaper scanners that use different materials.
As of late 2017, the cheapest model of the scanners can cost as little as $7,000.
But they’ve also been at the center of a string of complaints about poor performance and the lack of quality control, according to hospital officials and customers.
The hospital’s recent financial problems have resulted in several changes to its MRI equipment, including cutting the number of scanners to three from four, reducing the size of the scanner to less than a half-meter in length and reducing the number that can be operated by only one person.
It’s a change that’s prompted some to question the quality of the equipment, and some have asked for refunds or other compensation for customers who have been charged exorbitant prices.
“We have had a number of patients who were unhappy with their experience,” said John E. Kappel, Lowell’s general manager of medical imaging.
The problems were brought to light when Lowell Hospital and the University of Connecticut launched a joint study into the equipment’s quality.
In October, the researchers found that all three Lowell MRI machines failed to meet all federal standards for safety, reliability and performance, and that the quality control of the devices was “extremely poor.”
But the Lowell hospital is refusing to provide any details about the study, and it’s not clear what kind of problems the university’s investigators identified.
The Lowell researchers also found that two Lowell MRI technicians had performed an improper procedure, leaving the hospital vulnerable to fraud.
A third Lowell technician, who was hired to work on the project, did not report his concerns about the scanner’s quality to Lowell Hospital management.
“When you have multiple issues in an operation, there are multiple layers of safety,” said Lowell’s Dr. Eric J. Karpowitz, who headed the study.
“If there’s a safety issue, you’ve got to go out and look at it and find the root cause.”
Karpitz said the Lowell researchers were not trying to make a political statement or suggest that Lowell Hospital should be sued.
“This was a technical matter,” he said.
“There was no political agenda behind this.”
Lowell Hospital is not alone in having trouble getting the Lowell scanners working.
A federal report issued in March 2017 said that a “significant number” of Lowell’s MRI scanners are “not fully functional.”
In response, Lowell said in a statement that “We are taking steps to upgrade our MRI equipment to meet industry standards and to reduce the number” that are working.
The report also noted that Lowell had installed its own security cameras and security guards on the scanners in 2015 and 2016, and has “continued to work closely with our customers and state regulators.”
The hospital has also installed new security systems that will provide greater surveillance on MRI equipment.
Lowell’s new scanners are expected to begin shipping later this year, but the hospitals current equipment has been in use since 2003, according, according the hospital.
While some Lowell customers have complained that they have been denied refunds, the hospital said the refunds are “unrelated to the issue.”
Lowell has been working to improve the quality and safety of the hospital’s MRI machines.
In February, it installed an additional scanner, this one with two additional detectors.
“Our current scanners have not been tested for accuracy and reliability,” the hospital wrote in a letter to customers.
“Since the beginning of this year we have begun the process of upgrading our scanners, and we have completed this process.”
Kappels said the scanner improvements have improved the scanners’ accuracy and have given him a higher level of confidence in them.
But he also said that the scanners still need more improvements, including the addition of more sensors to the scanner and new safety features that will improve the scanner performance.
“The scanners are not 100 percent reliable,” Kappes said.
He said that he doesn’t have enough information to recommend any of the Lowell scanner upgrades, but said that in the future, he would like to see the scanners used in other types of medical applications.
“I think that it would be really nice to see them used in a hospital,” Kapels said.