Luckily, there are resources for determining the right part, finding it, and maintaining costs. Many providers exist who offer ways to cut costs in light of shrinking health care budgets. Many of these businesses can also offer insights into trends, the supply chain and the growth of the parts market. The OEMs are also aware of the changes wrought by an evolving health care environment that seeks efficiencies from every participant.
The theme of budgets, and more accurately, tightened budgets, seems to find its way into every story about health care and HTM departments. It has become an unavoidable fact of life that weighs on every decision. It is a symptom of changes made to modern day health care, pitting the smooth operation of important medical devices against the challenges the C-suite faces from CMS and other considerations.
The challenge cuts both ways though, as suppliers seek ways to reduce costs, operate more efficiently, remain competitive and satisfy stockholders or profit margins.
For purchasers, it’s about finding quality parts that are tested and reliable and affordable; that makes pinching pennies either a cost-conscious exercise or a corner-cutting one. In an effort to avoid the latter, there has been a necessary evolution in finding creative solutions to acquiring parts that fit the need, while keeping an eye on the bottom line. As with so much else in this connected world, the Internet has changed the parts search horizon significantly, making the nearest computer much like the proverbial card catalog at the local library.
And then, there are the logistical concerns; getting that part in a timely manner or finding something in the first place. How do you solve these problems? Does the supplier test their parts and assure accountability that the part won’t be DOA? The suppliers lend their perspective and insights on meeting these issues and on the market as a whole. Experienced parts buyers also lend insights, tips and cost-lowering ideas that will prove useful.
There is also helpful information about Device Support- ability with the help of AAMI’s Supportability Task Force.
The task force’s checklist can help HTM departments make wise choices.
Ken Maddock, an HTM consultant with a long history of involvement with AAMI, points out that the checklist is not only a good read for every HTM professional for tips on acquiring parts, but also for tips about saving money and considering the total cost over that parts entire life cycle.
He also points out that this is a living document; HTM professionals, who have good suggestions from experience, should submit their ideas to AAMI Director of Healthcare Technology Management Patrick Bernat for possible inclusion.
The checklist also offers pointers for manufacturers regarding notifications, more in-depth information and tampering.
As Close As The Nearest Computer
“The parts market is more competitive since Google. Everyone can hop on Google and type in their part number and it will show vendors who have stock,” says Nicole Hemphill, business development director at PartsSource in Aurora, Ohio.
Tim Smith Sr., vice president of sales at First Call Parts in Salem, Virginia, agrees that the Internet and software have changed the parts procurement landscape.
“From the third-party parts supplier perspective, we have seen an increased interest in technology-based solutions,” Smith says. “Companies are leaning more toward exploring avenues like computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) integration to help with time management. Engineers, HTM departments, purchasing departments, and customers in general are more interested in online shopping for parts now as well.”
Luckily for those in need of parts, the market continues to grow and access is just a keyboard away.
At the same time, more obsolete equipment parts may be more of a challenge.
“We are starting to see some of the older equipment parts fade out. Older single slice CT parts are getting harder to find. This is understandable,” says Sarah Lee, vice president of sales and marketing at Medical Imaging Technologies in Thomson, Georgia.
“I guess it happens with all technology. We have definitely seen the parts market grow. There are more parts companies than there have ever been before. With that being said, you have to be careful and use a parts company you trust that actually tests the parts and makes sure they work correctly. We have gotten many parts over the years that were bad when we received them,” Lee adds.
Supportability includes the availability of the right parts, at a cost that is within the device user’s practical budget, and the ability to use that part in a repair. This is only one ingredient in a recipe that includes many; a part’s quality, price and the frequency of use of a part and it’s environment during use.
With many hospitals feeling a budget crunch that makes capital expenditures more difficult, equipment is kept in service longer.
“The overall trend in this business sector seems to be related to health care facilities keeping
equipment in service much longer today than in previous years,” says Greg W. Johnson, CBET, CHFM, co-founder of Southeastern Biomedical Associates Inc.
“As a result, manufacturers tend to discontinue support on older equipment as an attempt to drive new equipment sales. This requires biomedical technicians in the field to seek alternative sources for acquiring parts and it has become an ever-increasing challenge for them to keep older equipment operational.”
“The parts trend that we’ve been noticing lately has to do with compact portable systems. Over the past weeks/months, we have been receiving more and more requests for transducers and parts for these portable systems,” says Norma Robles, customer support specialist at Exclusive Medical Solutions in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Along with these changes in the market is the challenge of comparing prices accurately. As Maddock stated, the cost of a part is not just about the price being charged on the invoice.
Perry Kirwan, vice president technology management at Banner Health, agrees about the importance of a part’s total cost over its life cycle.
“Clinical technology standardization – as we remove clinical variation in our care delivery processes – this has necessitated standardizing equipment decisions to realize those goals. Standardization by itself will most save you money over the life cycle,” Kirwan says. “Life cycle has to be thoroughly researched and incorporated into the purchasing process so that this plays a major role in the selection process. When you get it right, then you can negotiate everything from that point on from a volume perspective. OEMs and third-party parts suppliers are both integral in determining the market and then you negotiate from there.”
Some of parts buying is just common sense. Stay focused on what you really require.