What to look for when buying an ECG Machine

ECG Machines
An Electrocardiogram, mostly known as an ECG Machine or Monitor is a staple piece of equipment for any Medical Centre today. The ECG machine was first invented in 1901 by the Dutchmen Willem Einthoven, and while his first machine weighed over 270kg, today’s medical professionals have a range of machines to choose from, some weighing less than 1kg. Just like other medical equipment that a medical centre requires, the ECG Machine has several options that one must consider before buying. It is most important that you purchase a machine that fits within your practice and your work-flows. Considerations must be made around PC Based or standalone models, the type of electrodes you use and what features you require.

PC Based Machines
To begin, it is usually easiest to start with deciding whether you require a PC Based or Standalone ECG. PC Based, as it suggests, means that the ECG unit connects to a computer/tablet via USB (usually requires Windows) for it to work. The USB connection powers the leads, and the software that comes with the device is what takes and stores the results. The main benefit here is a paperless system with results stored in the software. Often the user can then save the results as a PDF and import them into the patients file with their chosen Electronic Medical Records (EMR) software. Some devices even offer integration where the ECG Software can integrate with your EMR programs such as Best Practice or Medical Director. This allows the results to be stored in the patient’s record instantly. Other things to consider is the mobility of a PC Based ECG as it must have its own software to function. You need to check that software can be installed freely onto other computers in your practice if you require it to be used in multiple rooms. Consider how your network is set up and if the device you are considering can work with that setup.

The main benefit hear is a paperless system with results stored in the software.

Stand-alone Machines
Stand-alone ECGs, while slowly giving up market share to the PC Based units, still has a prominent role within medical centres. They normally only require a power point (along with basic accessories such as electrodes and paper) to work anywhere. Some models even have built-in rechargeable batteries so you can use it without a power point for several tests. This mobility can be attractive for many customers who find they might often be offsite performing tests. Also, if your practice still prefers paper over digital results, standalone units might be for you. While more basic compared to the PC Based machine, the standalone unit doesn’t often require the user to deal with the installation of software which can at times be confusing and time-consuming. They can connect the patient and view the trace, right there and then on the screen. Lastly, paper for your results is an ongoing cost not associated with PC Based units. Keep this in mind when making your decision..

Where to start? Doctors today have a plethora of ECG electrodes to choose from. What we recommend is to make sure you look at trusted brands such as 3M or Ambu. These brands have been around for decades and provide all types of electrodes including studs, tabs, clips and fittings. While all brands will claim they work (and most do), it is not just the ability to obtain a trace but also the speed and reliability of that trace that is important. Speed and reliability will often result in a more accurate reading from your ECG Machine and also save you time. Please note that with ECG universal clips, you can fit almost any electrode with any ECG machine, so it can often be best to view the purchase of your ECG machine separate to your decision on what electrodes to use. Again, as a recommendation, we suggest established electrode brands as the go-to when it comes to using electrodes.

What we recommend is to make sure you look at trusted brands such as 3M or Ambu.

Models and Feature
Just as there is a range of electrodes to choose from, there are also many different ECG’s, all providing different features. There are many ECGs in the market that includes features to obtain the Medicare rebate 11700, which states you must provide a 12-lead ECG with tracing and report. It is important to know that in this context, “12-lead” refers to providing 12 perspectives of the heart’s activity, even though there may only be ten physical leads/electrodes. In the PC-Based range, there is often also the option of wireless (Bluetooth) units. These can be great as you don’t have to be within reach of your computer. However, Bluetooth presents its own issues with the possibility of interference which is not an issue when the unit is connected directly to your computer. Standalone models vary greatly as well, with some offering network connectivity or USB connectivity while some don’t, some offer A4 printouts, while others are A5 and smaller. Some include rechargeable batteries, and others vary in the warranty they offer. One feature to make sure your machine has is “interpretation”. This is the software of the PC-Based units or standalone machine that can interpret the trace and provide you with a conclusion/result. This greatly assists a Doctor with their diagnosis. The list keeps going on for features and differences, so it is best to consult your sales representative for more information.

Overall you need to consider all the differences and what will be best for you and your practice. As a rule, make sure the unit is registered with TGA, make sure it is a “12-lead” ECG so that you can claim the rebate of $23.45 and we recommend making sure interpretation is an included feature. Electrodes should always be from a recognised brand to avoid tracing issues which will help save you time and money. As always, we recommend talking further with a sales representative or talking to our trained customer service on 1300 22 44 50 for more information.