The Total Cost of Medical Device Maintenance
For 37 years, I have worked for hospitals or for companies who fix medical equipment for hospitals. In this role, I've been the advocate for the hospital and ultimately, the patient. I always have been conscious of the cost to the hospital and the effects of medical maintenance costs on the overall cost of health care. When I moved into management 33 years ago, I also became aware that the total cost of maintaining a medical device extends far beyond the hourly rate that the repairer charges you when it breaks.
Total cost also includes the costs of preventive maintenance, which is frequently required by law, and can be performed as often as monthly. Preventive maintenance is tough to schedule when you have an item such as a CT scanner which supports an emergency department. Many companies charge a premium to come perform your PMs late at night or on the weekends, when volumes may be lower.
Equipment downtime is another factor. For the same reason that you cannot voluntarily schedule a busy machine down during a workday, you cannot afford to have it broken for several days while parts are ordered or less-than-qualified people experiment on how to fix it. You, more than anyone else, are aware of the revenue-generation implications of high-end imaging devices.
The cost of maintaining a medical device also includes customer and physician satisfaction. If a patient drives three hours for a procedure, only to be sent home because it doesn't work on that day, he or she (and their family) isn't happy. And it doesn't take too many broken appointments for a physician to begin using a more reliable imaging center.
So, there we have it. The decision of where to obtain your maintenance service is important. And it's a decision which carries significant financial rewards for the providers of the service. Medical device service is profitable and service salespeople will employ many tricks and tactics to lure you to their company. It will be my job to tell you the real story about what you hear from all sides.
The choices we will discuss in future blog posts include manufacturer full-service contracts, manufacturer limited-coverage contracts, third-party contracts, and hospital-based service, which can either be provided by hospital-employed engineers or by individuals contracted to the hospital by an outside service company. Then there is the service which is handled on a demand basis--no contracts and all services are paid for as they are required.
Each of these choices for a service provider can be the best in the right circumstance. None is the absolute best solution for every scenario. We also will discuss how to determine the best mix or blend of service for your particular facility.