It’s time to choose a new main chemistry analyzer. Sometimes this choice is easy: there is one vendor on a group purchasing organization (GPO) contract or one analyzer has a unique menu. Other times, it simply comes down to cost. Here are a few points to consider, in no particular order:
Cost. It always, always, always comes down to cost. It's about comparing apples (lease to lease, menu to menu, reagent to reagent, etc.). Vendors will brag about a lack of downtime, no maintenance requirements, or excellent service; I pay attention to service cost after the warranty expires. Another “hidden” cost is the buyout at the end of a lease. Ka-ching.
Size. Space, power, airflow, and network access are important. It costs time and effort to move cabinets, outlets, and counters. It’s easy to forget that reagents and consumables need storage space, refrigerated or frozen. And all of it costs money to order, ship, monitor, verify, inventory, etc. (See Cost).
Performance. Vendors will hype throughput, STAT access, etc. It can be important to consider the speed and reliability of critical analytes -- cardiac troponin, for example -- but hype is (ha ha) overrated. All menus have tradeoffs and change over time if vendors want to remain competitive. There are few do or die methods and, frankly, greater variation off and around the bench. Process variation is the time and money thief, not a method that might be three minutes slower. (See Cost.)
Staff. Trained professionals can run anything. But they don’t want to spend endless time on maintenance, petty calibrations, complicated troubleshooting, weak links, repeating unreliable tests, waiting for reagents to stabilize, pretreating samples, and inventing workarounds. It all burns up a time card, but a tech should spend time verifying results to treat patients, not doing field service work you’re already paying for. (See Cost.)
We are so focused on staff “resistance” that we forget that change is expensive. There’s nothing wrong with getting the same model if it’s cheaper and easier than being the first kid on the block with a new toy. Did I mention cost?
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