Distinguishing different independent service vendor options for Healthcare Facilities
Depending on a health care facility’s needs, picking the right medical device service vendor will help lower total cost of ownership relative to costly service contracts. There are several different types of service options to consider when seeking outside help. The choices range from light administrative support to field service installation and equipment repair. In order to maximize savings, it is important to understand the different options available and the related quality of service.
Re-marketers, also referred to as brokers, are organizations with a business model to buy and sell equipment from their sources and move it to healthcare facilities. This can be beneficial for larger healthcare organizations as their benefit is the ability to absorb the administrative burden from clinical engineers. There is value in these services, however clinical engineers must validate pricing because there is a risk of incurring unnecessary and significant markups for basic administrative support. Some re-marketers are forthcoming and inform their customers that they are procuring from other vendors. Others hide behind a veil and do not disclose their procurement methods, fearing their customer will reach out directly to the supplier with the inventory or services.
Service vendors are organizations that focus on field service and are often used by small clinics and rural hospitals that do not have a clinical engineering program. When choosing a medical device service vendor, often smaller vendors are generally more flexible to travel and service a low number of systems. A recent trend with these service companies is the motivation to attempt electronic component level repair. However, most lack the experience or skills to move into sophisticated electronics repair and pose a risk of low quality products to their customers. The motivation for them to learn these skills is driven by their potential profit. If they can repair a product or two, they reduce their own costs of outside procurement, allowing their margins to increase.
Medical device repair vendors are able to repair electronics down to the component level. This ability allows them to perform electrical repairs that restore the performance and safety of the equipment. Many who claim to repair, can easily interpret a cleaning and dusting of the equipment as the "repair" and return it to service; often times not testing it with live imaging equipment to match the exact target system in a healthcare facility. Choosing a true repair vendor will lower total cost of ownership as the quality of work performed is controlled and consistent. This provides significant value to healthcare facilities including higher quality products and services.
A challenge for Healthcare Facilities in the medical device service industry has stemmed from re-marketers and service vendors claiming the ability to repair medical device equipment. These companies grossly exaggerate their capabilities and loosely interpret FDA definitions, thus misleading their customer base.
There are several ways to identify whether or not a company is truly capable of repair. Look for a company with certifications, such as ISO 13485:2003 or 2016, RoHS, or IPC. It is becoming common practice for healthcare facilities to require validation of the claims: “Do you repair the items in house? What sort of damage did you find? How do you validate repair success? What happens if I have an issue with a previous repair? What is your warranty policy?” When sending something out for repair, ask for updates on the status, or even ask to see the item itself being worked on. In addition to the questions, a site visit is an excellent way to validate capabilities.
It is vital for healthcare facilities to absolutely understand the areas in which support is needed. Researching all available options to make the most informed decision will help ensure quality products and lower total cost of ownership.
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