Managing Imaging Equipment
You work with equipment. Equipment is technical, by nature.
As Radiology and management professionals, you must rely on others for the
technical information about the inner workings, reliability, accuracy and life
cycle cost of your imaging equipment.
If you work in a hospital, your access to information about
new technology, the stability of companies, and the level of cooperation that
you will receive after the sale is limited. Limited to other imaging
professionals, manufacturer's employees, your own experiences and online
resources. But which of these resources are going to tell you the truth - the
real, honest, good bad and the ugly?
So much of what we do today is driven by big technology.
Whatever you buy today will be with you for a long time. It pays to get all of
the input that you can. And when seeking opinions and information, it is
important to pay attention to the motives of the people giving the information.
Manufacturer's reps and sales people are paid
to sell the manufacturer's product. They will always have a solution for you.
If it doesn't fit, their job is to force it. Their jobs depend upon moving
product. They are not paid to give you an unbiased report. They are not
unbiased. They unashamedly want to sell you their product. They undergo a lot
of training to teach them how promote their product and how to talk down the
In the hands of a sales professional, you might not even know
they are bashing the competition. It will be done in so subtle a way as to make
you think that you figured it out for yourself. Information from a
manufacturer's sales person is only as good as what they are willing to provide
in writing. The spoken word evaporates as soon as it is uttered.
Other professionals and your counterparts at other facilities
are better sources of information. If you know them well, they should give you
the unslanted truth about their experience with a particular machine or company.
But if you are not personal friends, you don't know if they are being rewarded
in some way for providing an artificially enhanced report. They may also have
access to special perks and discounts that you may not.
Online resources have a definite advantage.
Although you might not know the person writing the review or comment, if there
are enough comments, you can detect a trend in the user satisfaction. These
trends may enable you to ascertain the truths contained in them. Online forums
have the advantage of consolidating large numbers of reviewers into a single
How about a couple of other resources?
ECRI Institute and MD Buyline are two
companies whose specialize in evaluating medical devices and sharing purchasing
pricing and terms. But they do not directly evaluate fixed imaging devices.
They are too expensive to purchase and install. So there is very limited objective
information about these high-dollar investments.
RSNA is a fantastic place. But again, you are visiting the
manufacturer's booths. And they staff them with their very best sales and engineering
people. They spare no expense to make their equipment look like the best.
Again, there is little objective information.
Group Purchasing Organizations are
involved in almost every capital purchase for hospitals. What is their
motivation? They are usually paid not only a membership fee from their member
hospitals, but also receive a percentage from the manufacturers. They collect a
fee every time their members purchase from a company on their vendor list.
Have you used a pre-owned equipment sales company?
(Disclaimer: I work for one of these.) If you use a large, nationally known
reseller, you can tap into their information about many manufacturers and
models of equipment.
Maybe your hospital isn't interested in purchasing previously
owned imaging equipment, but reaching out to one of these companies can provide
you a couple of things. First, they can speak to you about your present and
future needs. This discussion may help further codify your purchase rationale.
Second, they are familiar with many manufacturers and models of equipment.
Their assessment of what best meets your needs reflects not just one manufacturer's
offering, but many. It is another piece of information for you to evaluate.
Third, you may just change your mind and determine that a refurbished solution
will stretch your capital dollars.
How about the technical staff of your own hospital?
Your in-house Clinical Engineering or Healthcare Technology Management
department can be a rich source of information. Whether they are hospital
employees or provided by a national independent service organization, they have
a breadth of knowledge rivaled by few. In addition to working on the equipment
of many manufacturers, they have access via listservs and forums to thousands
of hospitals and imaging engineers across the nation. Using these forums, they
can ask questions and receive both public and/or confidential information about
the accuracy of the claims made by the manufacturers concerning machine
accuracy, dependability and user satisfaction. But beware - they may also be
biased. Many of us have had bad experiences with greedy manufacturers who have
tried to thwart our efforts to be independent and save our hospitals money.
This can leave a bad taste in the mouth of a medical equipment servicer for
My advice is to take as much information as you can gather,
from as many diverse sources as possible, and then make the decision that best
fits your situation and constraints.