Welch Allyn is the leading manufacturer of otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes, however the quality is also reflected in their higher prices. While many medical students want to purchase top name-brand equipment, and indeed this should be the case for such instruments as stethoscopes, this strategy is not always needed for diagnostic kits. Here’s the usual scenario: second year medical students from AMSA or some other group organize a “money-saving fundraiser” (let’s ignore that blatant oxymoron) and only highlight larger, more expensive, name-brand companies. Often times there are even incentives to purchase the more expensive $500-$800 diagnostic sets to “save” on smaller instruments such as tuning forks or reflex hammers.
As mentioned in the Compare Welch Allyn series, it is incredibly important to talk to senior medical students at your school to ascertain the actual usage of instruments. This cannot be accurately assessed from manufacturer representatives, or even the second year medical students running the instrument sales. If third and fourth year students carry their diagnostic sets with them at all times, a Welch Allyn set may be more beneficial. If such diagnostic kits are used in a small handful of learning sessions that teach physical exam techniques during first and second years and are never utilized throughout the rest of medical school, we recommend the following.
The company Med School Supply (completely unrelated to this site despite the similar name) sells full-sized otoscope and ophthalmoscope sets for around $100. Their standard model works just fine, although their LED otoscope set is actually more highly recommended due to the brighter, better lighting it produces. You can clearly see the difference between their fiberoptic LED bulb and an older Welch Allyn halogen bulb in the top image of this article, and read more about the differences in the article How to Pick the Best Light Source.
Both kits work with standard otoscope tips, which means there is no reliance on this company for tips after purchasing one of their models. Like the Standard Otoscope in the Welch Allyn description, Med School Supply otoscopes use a groove system to hold tips internally. The ophthalmoscope uses the same halogen bulb for both kits, and is a solid basic model, without the bells and whistles as its WA counterpart. Unlike Welch Allyn, there is no built in rechargeable option for the handle. These models take two C batteries, and that will last the entirety of medical school for the average user.
It is important to note that this company does not have the same quality control standards as Welch Allyn, so it is possible for them to sell and ship a set with a suboptimal component. Nonetheless, they have a full lifetime warranty on all of their products, so any piece will be replaced free of charge with free return shipping at any point during your use of the instrument. For the $400 difference between this and the Welch Allyn version, some find this compensated downside to be more than tolerable.