June 1, 2015

Countering Manufacturer Service Restrictions & Costs

If you’ve flown in recent years, you’ve noticed lots of changes in air travel, and felt them in your pocketbook. Added fees for baggage, premium seating, meals and other features that were once standard continue to increase the price, number of steps and transactions in even the simplest trip. It’s how airlines have survived market changes.

The same is true for the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that have traditionally serviced your medical equipment when repairs and maintenance exceeded your in-house capabilities. Like airlines, manufacturers are looking for ways to remain competitive and turn a profit.

One area you can expect to pay more (and/or get less) from OEMs is training.

Expect to see more restrictions and greater price tags on training and, sometimes, no training at all. For many healthcare providers, the only choice left is to pay above the service contract for preventive maintenance, equipment repairs or service.

But there’s a better way: investing in your in-house clinical engineering staff by negotiating training opportunities upfront during capital purchase negotiations and joining forces with third-party partners to build out internal capabilities.

Better OEM Negotiations: Short and Long-Term Benefits

Negotiations with OEMs during the purchase process can save considerable dollars, both in the short and long terms. In most purchases, hospitals should opt for short-term maintenance and warranty, and rely on trained staff to service the equipment.

Considering your hospital’s values and goals, decide which scenario is best for your organization:
1)     Pay a higher price for a better warranty and service contract options.
2)     Pay less for less coverage, relying more heavily on internal staff to service the equipment.

If your staff is properly trained, you may not need a warranty. In that case, you can negotiate a lower purchase price. If staff is not fully trained, your best short-term solution is to negotiate training opportunities for your CE staff directly from the OEM. Another viable option would be to negotiate training and roll down provisions if a short-term service contract is necessary.

For the long term, your goal should be to move toward a high-performance, high-ROI CE program that is self-sufficient — not reliant on OEM service and contracts. To achieve this, your hospital must invest in a comprehensive program to train your own staff, offering career paths for each individual to advance and grow.

It is proven that effective and appropriate training can save tremendous time and money, as well as extend the life of medical devices. Plus, a trained staff is an engaged, motivated staff — an added benefit not to be overlooked.

Staff Training as a High-ROI Investment

Time and money: Undoubtedly the greatest hurdles to staff training. The reality: money saved on expensive service contracts and long repair times can be redirected to training on-site staff to deliver the same service for less (and with faster turnaround).

Plus, your staff can anticipate and forecast needs for the equipment lifecycle, often averting or minimizing problems before they happen. It’s very likely that your staff is already qualified and capable of carrying out the job as long as they receive proper training.

The best and most cost-effective approach to training an entire CE staff is to contract with an outside company that specializes in training and career advancement for healthcare technology professionals. Engaging in a partnership doesn’t mean you have to eliminate your staff to hire a staff chosen by the third-party.

Rather, your department and staff would remain intact, and would receive ongoing training to upgrade their skills and to pursue advancement opportunities from entry level to specialist or upper management.

In the current model of CE departments that are highly dependent on service contracts, you’ll typically find just one technician role or level for all levels of expertise. This gives technicians no motivation to advance skills or pursue a promotion.

By contrast, when provided with training and advancement opportunities, technicians are recognized and compensated for their skill and expertise level. Those opportunities go a long way to re-engaging staff and eliminating costly attrition from a less motivated and disengaged department.

In all, relying on in-house staff for equipment support is a slam dunk both financially and operationally, dramatically reducing costs and downtime, and increasing response time, equipment lifecycle and ROI. Hospitals that have adopted this approach consistently save thousands of dollars, year after year.

Conscientious CE managers owe it to their team, the organization and patients they serve, to carefully consider breaking free from OEM service contracts altogether.