When Should You Upgrade?
Your laboratory is probably a mix of old and new technology. You may have refrigerators decades old, small centrifuges that were purchased used and still run strong, a coagulation analyzer at the end of its five year contract, and a chemistry analyzer you just installed a month ago. Ideally, each new piece of hardware represents a new service, cheaper cost, or faster and better testing ability. When should you upgrade?
It’s not an easy question to answer. Some factors to consider:
- Is there a demand for new technology? Immunochemical fecal occult blood (iFOB), for example, is better in many ways than a guaiac test, but will it be supported by your medical staff? Can you sell it?
- Is it really an upgrade? Any new technology should be a big enough leap to market as a true improvement. A more sensitive troponin, a 6-part CBC differential, and a rapid culture identification are good examples that can improve your service and sell extra expense to administration.
- When will the status quo fail? In general major instrumentation lasts five to seven years. If you start looking for an upgrade a year or two early it gives you plenty of time to decide, strategize, and find support for new technology.
- Does it save money? It’s rare that new technology reduces cost, but it happens. Look for new contracts, year-end deals, zero percent interest rates, and rebate incentives that sweeten the pot. Competition is always fierce by definition. And bean counters are convinced by numbers.
- Is it the only option? Your organization may have a policy to get several quotes on purchases, but it’s a good idea anyway. You can always pit one vendor against another. Simply saying, “I’m considering other vendors” is often enough, since everyone knows who the players are. And who knows? You might be pleasantly surprised.
Finally, you should consider the state of the competition. If all the labs around you have hematology analyzers that report a 6-part differential, it may be time to seriously consider an upgrade, for example. Your lab needs to stay current to be competitive.
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