Mobile ultrasound services are increasing in popularity. According to a report published by Business Wire, the global market for portable ultrasound devices has increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21% since 2014, and is expect to grow at a CAGR of 22.6% by 2022. If you have a passion for medical imaging and are looking to start a new business venture, this could be the career for you!
The best way to start a mobile ultrasound service is by becoming familiar with your target market and any competing companies. You will either need to have experience as an ultrasound technician, including relevant degrees and certifications, or be prepared to hire qualified technicians to work as your employees.
If you are ready to turn your passion for providing mobile ultrasound services into your own business, this could be the career path for you! To help you get started, we are providing the following list that can serve as a guide as you prepare to launch your own mobile ultrasound business.
Costs to Start
A mobile ultrasound business takes some forethought and planning to start. You will need to create a list of all the business expenses you will need to account for. According to John Marcheur, who wrote an article on about starting a mobile ultrasound company on Bizfluent, such expenses can include but are not limited to:
- Overhead-related operating costs
According to Marcheur, equipment needed can include imaging equipment, computers, computer peripherals, software, and communications equipment. You will also need to take into account a vehicle for transportation to sites as well as repair and maintenance costs.
As you are taking your start-up costs into consideration, it may be helpful to think about potential investors, loans, or other means for funding your business. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a helpful guide for calculating business startup costs. They also suggest taking into account monthly bills such as salaries, rent, and utility costs. For your mobile ultrasound business, rent and utilities could perhaps be replaced with car payment and fuel, if applicable. Their website offers a fillable Excel spreadsheet to help calculate these costs, and they also offer business counseling services.
If you plan on purchasing a new or used vehicle for your business, you will need to take this expense into account. According to an article written by Sarah O’Brien on CNBC.com, the average price for a new car is around $40,000 and the average cost for a used car is about $23,000.
According to National Ultrasound, portable ultrasound equipment can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000. This is a wide price range, so it’s a good idea to consider your budget and needs when deciding what kind of machine you will use for your business.
The national average salary for ultrasound technicians, according to Indeed, is $78,884 per year; however, they state that on the low end techs can make $20,000 per year and on the high end they can make $166,400 per year. This number will vary based on the size and scope of your business; however, it will be a good idea to keep this in mind if you are hiring employees or planning your own salary.
1. Write A Business Plan
A business model will act as a guide for how you navigate your business from inception to execution. The SBA provides a useful resource for designing a business plan that will work well for your mobile ultrasound business. According to their website, business plans usually fall into two categories, traditional or lean startup. Traditional business plans are more common and encourage more detail from the creator, and lean startup plans are less common and focus only on summarizing the important key elements of your plan.
One important element of your business plan, if you choose to go with the more common traditional format, will be a market analysis. The SBA suggests gaining a solid understanding of your industry and looking for trends and themes. This also requires doing competitive research and analyzing what successful competitors do and why it works for them.
As a mobile ultrasound business, you will also need to make some decisions about the size of your workforce. Are you an ultrasound technician who will be performing most of the tasks, or are you going to manage technicians who will be your employees? The answer to these questions will determine the structure of your business.
2. Choose a Business Location and Name
It will also be important to consider the location of your mobile ultrasound business and choose a business name.
The location of your business will determine the taxes and zoning laws, among other factors, that your business will fall under. According to the SBA zoning laws are usually controlled at a local level, so it will be important to research the zoning laws in your specific area.
They also state that choosing a business name and registering it will be an important step towards determining your brand identity as well as protecting it. According to the SBA, you can register your business name to protect it, and you may be legally required to do so depending on the structure and location of your business. There are several different ways to register your business name:
- Entity name (protects at a state level)
- Trademark (protects at a federal level)
- Doing Business As (might be legally required, but doesn’t give legal protection)
- Domain name (protects your business website address)
Once you have chosen a business name you can set up your website. You can create a business website using a service such as Wix or Squarespace, or hire a website designer who can build one for you. You can include all of the relevant information for your business in one location, as it can serve as a one-stop resource for potential clients. As mentioned above, you will want to register your domain name. According to the SBA, you can do so via a registrar service to determine which ones are safe.
3.Register Your Business
They also mention that an important step is choosing a business structure. This influence many factors of your mobile ultrasound business, from your daily operations to how much your personal assets could be at risk. You will need to choose a business structure before you register your business with the state, and you will also need to get a tax ID as well as file for licenses and permits, where appropriate.
Some common business structures include a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company, just to name a few. The SSA’s website has a list of possible options to consider. Each of these structures have varying degrees of liability and tax requirements, so it will be important to consider which one will be best for your business.
4.Obtain Proper Licenses and Accreditation
Accredited Schools Online, a website that provides free search tools, school rankings, and expert advice to prospective students, states that although it is not technically required in some states, a certification is usually needed to meet the minimum requirements for most sonography positions.
The organization goes on to explain that two of the major certifying organizations are the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). There are a wide range of ultrasound specialization certifications that can be received, and both of these certifying bodies provide pathways to receiving and maintaining appropriate certifications.
According to the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE), New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oregon have recently approved legislation that mandates the licensure of medical sonographers. The organization defines licensure as “legal permission granted by a designated governmental authority to engage in activity,” and they go on to explain that credentialing involves passing an examination and receiving recognition of such passing.
ASE states that they support a method where sonographers can apply to the state for licensure, where appropriate, after passing a credentialing exam; however, they mention there could be an annual state licensure fee. If you are a practicing sonographer, you will need to do the appropriate research to ensure that you meet your specific state’s requirements. Also, if you plan on hiring a sonographer you will need to ensure that they have met these requirements.
You will need to decide if your service should be accredited by a regulating body. The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) provides a helpful manual for ultrasound practice accreditation, should you choose to pursue accreditation by them.
According to the institute’s website, AIUM accreditation is voluntary, but allows ultrasound practices to display that they have met standards that are nationally recognized for the field. According to their guidelines, a practice that is an organization, group, or business that performs, interprets, and reports ultrasound examinations is eligible for ultrasound practice accreditation, and reaccreditation is required every 3 years.
According to the SBA, as a small business it’s likely you will need a combination of licenses and permits. These will vary based on the location of your business as well as your business activities. It will be important for you to research what specific licenses and/or permits are necessary for your business on the federal and state levels.
5.Decide On Bill Method Service Fee Model or Bill Insurance
Another important decision you will need to make when setting up your mobile ultrasound business is whether you will operate on a service fee model or if you will bill insurance directly. Jennifer Lindsey wrote an article for Talking Tech, a mobile ultrasound business blog. In this article, she explains that If you decide to operate with a service fee model, it would be up to your physician clients to bill insurance and you would provide ultrasounds in their office for a service fee.
Lindsey goes on to explain that if you would like to bill insurance directly you will need to purchase your ultrasound equipment and also submit paperwork for an insurance company to accept you into their network.
If you choose to bill insurance directly, you will need to get credentialed with an insurance company. According to National Credentialing Solutions, insurance companies verify your training, education, and professional experience to ensure that you meet their requirements to be an in-network provider. You will also need to decide which insurance companies to credential with, which could be decided by researching which insurance companies are have a larger patient base local to your area. The website also provides a checklist for credentialing and contract preparation, which could be helpful.
If you decide to go with a service-fee model, you wouldn’t need to be credentialed with an insurance company and you would provide a service to your physician clients. The physician would bill insurance and you would charge them a fee for your services. Lindsey states in her article if you choose to go this route, you could always work on the necessary paper to get credentialed by an insurance company while operating on a service fee model.
Another important decision to make will be if you need to hire a vendor to read your ultrasound studies. An ultrasound technician, or sonographer, performs the ultrasound service; however, specialists such as a radiologist, interpret the results. With a quick internet search, it’s fairly easy to find a list of ultrasound interpretation services. You could request quotes from a few of these services and then determine which option will be the best fit for your business.
The cost for a mobile ultrasound machine can vary greatly. According to National Ultrasound, portable ultrasound equipment can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000. It’s a good idea to consider your budget when deciding what kind of machine you will use for your business.
National Ultrasound mentions there are several different types of portable ultrasound machines. Laptop ultrasounds are, of course, laptop-based systems. Fold-down ultrasounds can be folded down vertically. Handheld, tablet, or hand-operated ultrasounds can convert a smartphone into an ultrasound system with the aid of a hand-held scanner; however, this system doesn’t have some of the high-end features that the laptop or fold-down varieties do.
Another possible option mentioned by National Ultrasound is buying a refurbished system. While new ultrasound machines typically come with a warranty, a refurbished portable ultrasound could provide the features you need at a lower price point. In this case, it’s important to do your research to ensure the machine you purchase has all of the capabilities you need for your business. Also, carefully assess the condition of the refurbished equipment.
Portability is another factor to consider when choosing equipment. National Ultrasound mentions that it will be important to know how often you will be moving between different locations, and also how high of an image resolution and advanced functions will be appropriate for your company.
You also may want to consider the supplies that will be used for your mobile ultrasound business and how often you will need to refill them. Disinfectant spray, wipes, and cleaning solution will be important supplies to have on hand to ensure that your equipment is clean and functions well. Ultrasound covers will be an important supply to consider, as well as ultrasound gel and gel warmers.
Transportations for your mobile ultrasound equipment will be another factor to consider. The size and type of vehicle needed will vary greatly depending on the supplies you will be transporting as well as the size of your ultrasound machine. These are all factors you will need to consider when deciding how to operate your business.
7. Hire Employees & Decide on Size of Workforce
If you are going to hire employees, you will need to manage the hiring process and plan how you will offer employee benefits. You will also need to comply with all federal and state labor laws. The SBA provides useful information about how to set up payroll as well as how to determine if you need state or local tax IDs. Required employee benefits include Social Security taxes, worker’s compensation, disability insurance, leave benefits, and unemployment insurance. Other employee benefits, including retirement plans, are optional.
According to the SBA, you will also need to familiarize yourself with federal and state labor laws, which includes learning relevant laws for hiring veterans, foreign workers, household employees, child labor, and people with disabilities. There are lists of the Department of Labor’s federal and state law resources which could serve as a guide for you.
8.Marketing and Promoting Your Business
As a business owner, you will likely spend a fair amount of time marketing and promoting your mobile ultrasound services to potential clients. There are several different avenues you can pursue for getting your business name and services out into the world.
Traditional print marketing materials could be utilized. While prices and styles can vary, Vistaprint offers custom, bi-fold brochures starting at $165.74 for 250. Along the same lines, their business card printing services start around $17.00 for 100 cards. These print marketing materials can serve as great resources to drop off with doctor’s offices as well as other networking opportunities.
Jennifer Lindsey, of the Talking Tech mobile ultrasound business blog, recommends that mobile ultrasound business owners meet face-to-face with physicians to let them know about their services. This can be done during normal business hours for doctor’s offices.
It will also be important to utilize your website for marketing purposes. Ensure that your company name and contact information are visible and that your website is user friendly. List your services as well as your business hours. Some companies even provide online access to exams and images for their clients, so this could be something to consider as well.
The mobile ultrasound field is a growing industry in the current healthcare climate. Many people are seeking out this service, and it could be a great time to start your own mobile ultrasound business. This is a career that would allow you to have a certain amount of freedom and control over your work hours if you wish to, and you would have the benefit of structuring your business in a manner that works best for you.
A mobile ultrasound business can be something you do on the side, or you can make it into a full-time career. You don’t necessarily need to have any special training if you decide to hire a staff of qualified ultrasound technicians who can work on your team. With some thorough research into the various rules and regulations in place for this industry, you could soon be on your way to a fulfilling and prosperous career. So if you are looking to get into a growing industry, the mobile ultrasound business might be the perfect job for you.