The Right to Repair
MedWrench recently interviewed the College of Biomedical Equipment Technology's President and CEO, William "Bill" Bassuk, to learn more about his thoughts on the right to repair.
Sun Mar 01 2020
The College of Biomedical Equipment Technology (CBET) is a 100% Veteran owned and operated private college offering Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET) and Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) training at the certificate and associates degree levels. The leadership team is comprised of individuals with decades of experience in the healthcare industry and education. Similarly, the instructional staff is comprised of industry experts and award-winning educators dedicated to providing quality education, training, and career services to our students.
Have a question for the expert or want to find out more? Fill out the form at the bottom of the page to ask Bill Bassuk a question directly.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the healthcare industry?
“Right to Repair” is among the most important challenges facing our industry. As an independent service provider and President of the College of Biomedical Equipment Technology, I have strong opinions on the issue and believe we are on the cusp of significant change. The argument boils down to a couple of factors, the rights of big companies seeking to protect their intellectual property and limit liability, and the rights of consumers seeking to lower costs, extend life cycles, and improve patient care. The impact of this activity will unknowingly impact not only independent service providers but will also directly limit healthcare facilities with in-house Healthcare Technology Management departments and their ability to service their own equipment. This is a challenge for every organization that services any medical device where they are not the direct manufacturer of that particular device.
There are a growing number of states that have either passed legislation or are considering legislation designed to protect consumer rights. Nationally, the Federal Trade Commission is examining issues associated with repair restrictions imposed on consumers and the effects of these restrictions on consumers’ rights. The trend is toward protecting the rights of consumers, as evidenced by the fact that eight states have already adopted legislation to limit restrictions imposed by manufacturers, and many others are trending in that same direction.
What are the effects of repair restrictions on the healthcare industry market in the United States?
Arguments against right to repair, not surprisingly, emphasize issues like patient safety and protecting the proprietary rights and intellectual property of manufacturers. These arguments, however, are unsubstantiated and can easily be addressed by our industry and the FDA’s 2018 report finding of no public health concerns of independent equipment services. In recent years there have been numerous articles written by leaders in our industry pointing to the fact that protections designed to safeguard manufacturers from intellectual property theft already exist, primarily in the form of patents, suggesting the additional restrictions imposed by manufacturers are unnecessary, unfair, and costly.
Restrictions impact small businesses and healthcare providers directly. The evidence suggests that by limiting options for consumers, prices invariably increase, choices are restricted, repair timelines are extended, and equipment life cycles are shortened. I share the opinion of many in our industry, that manufacturers’ arguments for limitations and restrictions are unjustified and ultimately stifle competition and negatively affect patient care.
Can you provide a specific example of how you feel this issue is harming the industry?
Of course, the heart of the issue is what has been termed by some in our industry as a rapid erosion of ownership. Essentially, from the manufacturer’s perspective, you may own your device, but the software in it remains the property of the manufacturer. This is becoming a critical issue. The unprecedented proliferation of networked medical devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare, is leading toward a broken and unsustainable system. Quite simply, our healthcare system is big enough for the big manufacturers and the smaller third-party service providers to work together by expanding access to software and information necessary to perform reasonable repairs, maintenance, and services.
The crux of the problem is that although you own your device, the use of the software making it useful is governed by an End-User License Agreement (EULA). EULAs devalue and shorten the life span of medical equipment devices. These agreements, intended to protect software from being reverse engineered or manipulated, end up rendering some medical devices worthless and costing healthcare providers a lot of money by restricting reasonable repair and maintenance services at the end-user’s discretion. Consequently, a tremendous amount of money is wasted on expensive repairs, equipment discarded before the end of its lifespan, and limits on medical equipment device disposal options.
You mentioned the “Internet of Things” and the additional issues concerning networked medical devices, how do you see this issue affecting the healthcare industry?
We are witnessing a paradigm shift in the healthcare industry, characterized by rapid advancements in technology and the proliferation of networked medical devices. The biomedical technicians of the past, working in basements with schematics, soldering irons, and traditional tools, are being replaced by technicians who possess not only mechanical and electronics skills, but also networking and IT skills. The influence of technology, specifically networked medical devices, demands that we change our approach to education and professional development.
We are tackling this challenge head-on, by undertaking a comprehensive Job Task Analysis to get a better understanding of the direction, trajectory, and future academic needs of what are now more frequently referred to as healthcare technology managers. By working with our partners in the industry we are discovering that archaic educational models and techniques simply do not work. The HTM of the future will demand an entirely different type of education and a professional development path and continuing education opportunities emphasizing cybersecurity, networking, and basic information technology skills.
What do the industry partnerships have to do with your school’s success?
I founded the College of Biomedical Equipment Technology over 10 years ago. At the time, I had little success in garnering interest or support. The notion that a biomed could learn the skills necessary to work as a technician in a hospital through an online approach seemed preposterous to many. We may have been a little bit ahead of the time, but our outlook on the needs of the industry gave us the opportunity to establish our school with extraordinary content and instructors. Working our way up from a small vocational school in Round Rock, Texas, to a nationally accredited college serving students around the world, from Alaska to the United Arab Emirates. Along the way we have made many friends in the industry and partnered with some of the most innovative and forward-thinking minds in healthcare.
The partnerships we have formed with innovative companies like Summit Imaging, IMed Biomedical, RSTI, and many others, have been invaluable to our college. We have also undertaken a concerted effort to collaborate with biomedical and HTM organizations across the nation, to ensure we understand their needs. It is through our partnerships that we gain the knowledge necessary to deliver the education and offer the support our students require. I believe our program is a success, in large measure, because of the support and friendship we receive from our partners in the healthcare industry.
To learn more about the College of Biomedical Equipment Technology, click here.