Founded last year in Scottsdale, Ariz, Trilogy Imaging Partners has grown in the last year from a tiny start-up to what its CEO Elizabeth Frazier calls “a major disrupter in the medical equipment sales and service industry.” Borrowing the approaches of well-known Web sites like eBay and Yelp, the company consists of an online auction site for used medical equipment and a resource directory that allows biomeds to rate third-party service providers. The goal, Frazier says, is to bring more efficiency and transparency to an after-market medical equipment industry that has largely remained stuck in the pre-Internet era. Most importantly, she wants to help cash-strapped providers get a better deal on their trade-ins.
Frazier was inspired to launch the company after spending a decade and a half working for medical industry manufacturers and third-party service providers. She recently spoke with 24×7 about the inspiration for her company’s platform and how it can help biomeds get better service and value.
24×7: Trilogy Imaging Partners is actually two parts: Trilogy Bid Solutions and Trilogy Resource Directory. What is the purpose of each site?
Frazier: Today, Medicare and insufficient insurance reimbursements are squeezing healthcare providers, meaning every dollar counts. Trilogy helps with this in two ways.
First, Trilogy Bid Solutions (tri-bids.com), is an auction site for used medical equipment. Providers can post equipment as an auction item or for a fixed price and find out its true market value. This has the added benefit of offering the third-party market access to well-maintained medical equipment that is in current clinical use. Hospitals and providers get better value for their equipment, and third-party companies get access to trustworthy sources of quality product that previously would have gone straight back to the OEM.
Our second site is Trilogy Resource Directory (trilogydirect.com), and like TriBids it harnesses the power of the Internet to help healthcare providers get a better deal. Trilogy Direct provides the same kinds of peer reviews you see on a site like Angie’s List and applies them to equipment service providers.
24×7: Who are the sites’ intended users?
Frazier: TriBids users include healthcare providers on the sell side and third-party buyers on the buy side. More specifically, sellers are often radiology managers, biomeds, in-house imaging engineers, or C-level individuals with equipment to sell. Buyers include parts providers, third-party equipment resellers, brokers and dealers, and companies and individuals who need access to hospital equipment.
Trilogy Direct is designed as a one-stop repository of rich information about the industry. Reviews are a big part of the site but you can also get information on industry events, trends, job opportunities, and much more.
24×7: How is Tri-Bids different from other third-party medical equipment resellers?
Frazier: TriBids is an auction site that works directly with hospitals and imaging centers, so third-party medical equipment resellers are actually our customers. TriBids provides them with a convenient, trustworthy way to purchase hospital equipment. We see ourselves as an extension of their team—we seek out equipment and bring it to them. Now they have access to hospital equipment without ever having to call or visit a hospital. Trilogy does not purchase the equipment. All money transfers between buyer and seller. We simply bring a platform and the healthcare provider to the industry.
24×7: Why should a healthcare provider come to your site to find or list equipment, instead of trading in equipment to the OEM?
Frazier: Sometimes trading in to the OEM makes sense, and that’s fine. TriBids simply allows providers to check whether the OEM trade-in is the right choice for them based on current market rates for used equipment. They can check this at no cost, because we do not charge a listing fee.
24×7: When designing your business model, did you use any Web sites or companies from outside industries as inspiration?
Frazier: Yes, absolutely. The Internet is helping so many other industries become more efficient, we realized that it could help this industry too. Trilogy began with the insight that the same tools that help consumers ascertain fair pricing and good service (namely, review sites like Avvo, Angie’s List, and Yelp and auction sites like eBay) could be applied to the used medical equipment industry.
24×7: What kind of content belongs on the resource directory? How do you want people to use it?
Frazier: Trilogy Direct is a place where customers can go to find the answers that they need about service vendors, happenings in the industry, open jobs, and expert advice. While the site is still young and we always have an opportunity to add information and resources, the most important aspect of Trilogy Direct is the ability to read and write reviews. We are focused on the positive aspects of the reviews. Vendors now have a place to send their customers and be proud of the great service they offer. Both vendors and healthcare providers can add content that is important to the industry, such as articles, deals and discounts, coupons, service manuals, or open jobs. We will always be improving the site and changing things to meet the needs of the industry.
24×7: Why did you feel there was a need for this type of site in the medical equipment field?
Frazier: For more than a decade I’ve watched how the industry has changed, how technology has changed, and how the needs of the hospitals have changed. The drastic shifts that the industry has experienced really inspired the idea to create our two platforms.
I met my partner, Trilogy’s chief operations officer Jon Picus, through a mutual friend and customer. We agreed on the urgent need to make this happen. Jon had spent 6 years leading European operations for a worldwide surplus equipment auction company. Together, and after many hours of brainstorming, we came up with the concept for TriBids. Once we launched the site, the business took off. It’s been an amazing ride. Trilogy’s rise is largely due to our focus on delivering transparency, expertise, and customer service to a market that in many ways has been stuck in the preInternet era.
24×7: The Trilogy Direct site mentions introducing transparency to the medical equipment market. Don’t biomeds who have been in the field a while already know which companies they can and can’t trust?
Frazier: Not really, and we know this empirically, because we hear it all the time. With the Affordable Care Act, more regulation, and lower reimbursements, healthcare providers are being pinched financially like never before. This shift is causing the biomed team and others to reconsider the expensive service and parts providers that they have used for years. They want to see what other options are out there, if only to go back to their trusted provider for additional discounts.
This trend has created a surge of new companies joining the third-party market. Service has always been a high-margin industry and we see new companies, independent contractors, and others trying to cash in.
Reading what their peers have experienced is the most reliable way to make a sound decision. The fact that biomeds have their favorite vendors whom they know and have used for years is even better support for what we are doing. We encourage them to post reviews about their favorite vendors, because this allows other organizations to make good decisions when they have to make a change.
This isn’t about getting bad reviews and dirt on companies. We focus our communications around good reviews and tips. Having good reviews helps the vendor and the customer. Vendors can send prospective customers to read their glowing reviews and get a new sale closed. We bring transparency and trust, making the third-party market that much stronger.
24×7: How does the company review component work? Can comments be posted anonymously? If a company didn’t like the reviews it received, what options would it have to edit or remove them, or respond to the original poster?
Frazier: Posting reviews is easy: There are about five questions and it takes 2 minutes to complete a review. In addition, you don’t have to be a member or even logged in to leave a review, and the reviewer has the option to remain anonymous.
Companies do not have the option to edit or remove a negative review, because that would defeat the purpose of creating transparency. However, we do have strict safeguards in place to ensure fairness. This means that all reviews are individually vetted by our team prior to going live. Trilogy will not approve them if there is anything inappropriate. If we see a red flag, we will investigate prior to putting a review on the site. You can think of it like the Better Business Bureau model, which has been a reliable review resource for decades.
24×7: What kind of comment might constitute a red flag?
Frazier: Any comment that is mean-spirited, purposefully harmful, or appears to be written unprofessionally or out of malice. Anything that makes major accusations of illegal or unethical business practices, or inappropriate remarks about an individual rather than a review of the company. There is a notice on the review page telling reviewers that if they mention specific names of individuals, their review may not be approved.
24×7: What problems or opportunities in the marketplace were you trying to address by starting your own company?
Frazier: It was very important to me to bring solutions to the healthcare providers that I felt they deserved. I realized that I wanted to take better care of the people who take care of us. If you think about it, every one of us is a patient at a hospital at some point in our lives. It made perfect sense for us to come up with technology to improve the hospital’s bottom line. Ultimately, the result is better patient care for all of us!
24×7: Tell us about your background. How did you get where you are?
Frazier: I spent a decade and a half working for medical industry OEMs and third-party service providers—managing business with strategic integrated delivery networks and selling service agreements on multiple business lines across healthcare equipment. As my career progressed, however, I became more and more frustrated because I felt like I wasn’t providing the best value for my clients.
Instead, I felt like I was getting further away from the reason I’d gotten into healthcare in the first place. Trilogy is the culmination of all my years of experience combined with my desire to make a positive change for healthcare providers. I’m thrilled to be working every single day to help healthcare providers do what they do best.
Jenny Lower is the chief editor of 24×7. Contact her at [email protected].