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What Backs-Up That Used Equipment?

Wed, 09/13/2006 - 12:12pm
In an ideal world hospitals, medical centers and other health care facilities would never have to worry about money. New technology, from capital equipment to communication systems, would be graciously bestowed upon the facilities, with the greater good of all mankind being the only consideration.

Of course, we do not live in an ideal world. Despite the delicate and unendingly important work being done in hospitals (ie. the preservation of life and the overall quality thereof), the facilities are still businesses. Money has to come in, so money can go out. Now more than ever, with procedure costs rising and insurance reimbursement falling, hospitals are finding themselves saddled with very restrictive budgets, in competition with larger and better funded facilities and pressured to increase income by performing more procedures with greater efficiency and less equipment.

Unfortunately, the new technologies and procedural techniques that are rapidly entering the medical field are not making things easier on the bottom line. While new advancements on surgery may greatly improve patient safety and case turn-around time, those same advancements often require costly new instruments and more technological equipment, if not an overhaul of the entire operating room or surgery wing. Even in cases of facility renovation or expansion, a majority of available funds are often exhausted by the initial planning and construction projects, leaving little money left over for new capital equipment to furnish the new suites.

Over the past few years, one cost saving option for hospitals has become increasingly more viable. The purchase of refurbished or rebuilt used medical equipment can provide hospitals with the double benefit of improving available technology while cutting overall costs.

Questions to Consider Before Purchasing Refurbished Medical Equipment:
• What are the benefits of buying refurbished equipment versus new equipment? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
• Is the Refurbishing Company reputable and experienced? Are they knowledgeable about the equipment?
• What is the specific refurbishing process for the equipment being purchased? Is the equipment actually being rebuilt, or just given a cosmetic touch-up?
• Does the Refurbishing Company have liability and/or completed operations insurance? If so, what is covered?
• Does the Refurbishing Company have biomedical service and part support for the equipment they sell?
• What kind of support services back up the refurbished equipment? Is a reliable customer service and technical support staff on hand?
• Is loaner equipment available to minimize downtime should the equipment require repair or servicing?
• Does the Refurbishing Company offer a warranty program? Will they provide references?

Gone are the days when second-hand medical equipment dealers shared the same tarnished reputation as their much maligned counterparts in the automobile business. With the speed at which new technological advancement is sweeping across the surgical field, larger and well-funded health care facilities will often replace perfectly good equipment with newer models, just to keep on top of the emerging technologies. The displaced equipment can then be cleaned-up, refurbished and sold to another facility for a fraction of the original price. In addition, many vendors fully understand the value and importance of the equipment they are selling, and take that responsibility very seriously.

“Purchasing quality refurbished equipment from a reputable vendor is an important and fiscally responsible way to contain costs,” explains Catherine Mighell, Vice President of World Medical Equipment, Inc. (800-827-3747, www.worldmedicalequip.com), a provider of new and refurbished medical equipment. “And developing a relationship with a vendor who can provide you with quality equipment and a choice between different manufacturer’s equipment can be very rewarding.”

Nonetheless, as with any purchase, the buyer must beware. It is imperative that a facility in the market for second-hand equipment knows and understands exactly what is being purchased. Even if the primary reason for seeking out refurbished medical equipment is to cut costs, it is important for the buyers to ask questions and get to know the company that they are going to be dealing with. Regardless of how the low the price of a refurbished piece of equipment might be, if the dealer is not willing to stand behind his product and does not offer a warranty or technical support, later repair and replacement cost could very well nullify the initial savings.

Sterilizers ready to be rebuilt at World Medical Equipment, Inc.
“The benefits of refurbished equipment depend on the user and the company providing the equipment,” explains Jim Kleyman, President of Ace Medical Equipment, Inc. (800-226-6066, www.acemedical.com), a new and refurbished equipment provider to hospitals, surgery centers and office-based practices. “The user has an obligation to know the equipment they are purchasing, but the company selling equipment should also be knowledgeable regarding its uses and limitations, the availability of replacement parts, its life expectancy, manufacturer’s recalls and specific limitations, its service history, etc. An equipment refurbisher should not only serve as a point of sale, but a consultant to the user, to provide advice and support on equipment they are selling. The user should expect to pay more for a company providing this value added service. But, without this service, the benefits of purchasing refurbished equipment can be an uncalculated risk for the user, with consequences of cancelled surgeries and lost revenues.”

The knowledge and experience of the vendor should be a very important selling point for potential buyers. One of the biggest benefits to buying new equipment, regardless of the cost, is the peace of mind it provides. A new surgical table, lighting system or any other device comes with the backing of a manufacturer, a warranty and the knowledge that there is some kind of protection should the device be defective. Fortunately, a number of reputable refurbished equipment dealers are now extending similar offerings to hospitals with tighter budget constraints. Purchasing used equipment does not have to mean sacrificing service and piece of mind as long as the buyer knows what to look for and what to ask.

“My advice would be to look for a company that has had an established nationwide reputation for many years and ask for details on their refurbishing process,” says Mighell. “Of course, ask about warranty and references, and check on their customer service. The purchasing process will be much easier with a real and caring person who will answer your questions and assist you through any issues that arise.”

Any capital equipment purchase, new or used, is an investment. It is having that reliable equipment readily available that allows a hospital or medical center to function efficiently and effectively. Of course, even the best medical equipment will not last forever. At some point every facility will need to purchase new equipment, be it to replace outdated items or to keep up with new technology. Refurbished medical equipment provides not just a low-cost alternative to new capital equipment, but also an opportunity to get the most for the money that is spent. Building a relationship with a knowledgeable third-party vendor that is willing to stand behind its work and provide a support network can be a highly profitable investment in the long run.
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