Given the profitability of the HTM sector—Research and Markets projects that the U.S. medical equipment maintenance market will reach $9.5 billion by 2023—it’s no surprise that spare parts are in high demand. Below, four individuals who have a heavy stake in the medical equipment parts market—Jeremy Probst, president and CEO of Technical Prospects; Mark O’Neill, senior manager, service parts and logistics at Canon Medical Systems USA; Paul Porter, commercial channel manager, on-demand parts and services at GE Healthcare; and Mara Paré, vice president of client solutions at PartsSource—sit down with 24×7 Magazine to share their differing views. Don’t miss out.
24×7 Magazine: What are the top dos and don’ts of purchasing medical equipment parts?
Paul Porter: Here are the top dos and don’ts:
- Do demand quality parts from reliable sources. Safety matters—these devices are used on our families. Returns, reorders, rework, and unnecessary downtime is costly.
- Do stock key parts onsite to minimize service cycle times. We at GE Healthcare often see customers expedite a part order overnight only to have someone else in the HTM department order the same item a few days later.
- Do negotiate volume, bulk-order discounts. Both you and the supplier benefit from the forward planning, with the savings shared between you both.
- Do measure your supplier’s performance—i.e., percentage of parts available, defect rates, on-time delivery, and more.
- Don’t assume all parts are equal—they’re not. New, used, repaired, as is, clones, etc. may all have their unique advantages, but there are trade-offs associated with each. Exercise caution when comparing price points between apples and oranges.
- Don’t assume all suppliers are equal.
- Don’t allow the provider to deflect ownership for quality and availability. Your supplier should stock for your needs and establish their own quality assurance programs.
Mark O’Neill: The two most important things to keep in mind are quality and warranties. Ensure that you are making purchases from a reputable supplier and that they can provide proof that the parts are new from an OEM, or have been refurbished to OEM specifications. Some suppliers don’t offer a warranty or any kind of quality guarantee, which can put you at risk. It’s more important to focus on quality than price; this will help you avoid lost revenue from downtime and having to buy the same part more than once.
Jeremy Probst: When purchasing medical equipment parts, I recommend that organizations work with established, quality vendors. Companies that are ISO-certified or have a quality management system in place are far more likely to provide parts you can have confidence in. A great way to vet partners is to review defective on arrival rates or any other measures of customer satisfaction they may be tracking or monitoring. These factors help ensure you are receiving quality parts that not only work, but also help avoid system downtime.
In addition, while price is often a key factor when considering which parts supplier to select, I urge purchasers to look beyond the price tag and focus on the quality of the parts. Just because a vendor offers the same part at a lower cost doesn’t mean the part is of the same quality or that the organization will provide the same level of support.
Mara Paré: Do assess quality of your vendors. Quality is hard to assess and the absence of standardized processes and reporting make it even more challenging to determine the quality performance of both clinical engineering teams and suppliers.
Don’t spend time sourcing when you can spend that time fixing. Given the fact that over 80% of all transactions are for products that fall below a $250 cost point, your teams are much more valuable as engineers and techs than they are as shoppers. The average clinical engineering team is sourcing from 300 to 700 different suppliers. Based on multiple time-and-motion studies at leading health systems, the average medical replacement part order takes 88 minutes to source, track, receive, and reconcile.
24×7: How has the medical equipment parts sector evolved in the past few years? How do you expect it to evolve even more in the coming years?
Paré: The cost and quality initiatives that have been greatly impacting patient care on the floors of hospitals have trickled into the clinical engineering departments. Visibility, standardization, efficiency, and quality are now more important than ever and will continue to be top priorities for hospital supply chains.
Probst: Over the last several years, I think the medical equipment parts industry has become saturated, and we’ve seen many new players and vendors join the market. While this has led to competitive pricing, it has also caused unreliable parts to be introduced into the sector.
In the next three to five years, I think we will begin to see an increase in government regulations that impact third-party, non-OEM parts providers. If or when these regulations come into effect, we will see lower-quality vendors begin to be weeded out from the market. Healthcare facilities should begin to consider their vendors now and select parts partners that are proactively implementing quality assurance programs. Finding a strong supply chain partner now means you are more prepared for the future.
Porter: As HTM professionals do more service in-house, OEMs have innovated to support their needs. Parts-only solutions are now available to lower and capitate materials costs. Warehouse networks have sophisticatedly evolved to place parts closer to the point of care—and parts are now available online.
Further, in the coming years, OEMs will monitor devices remotely and predict when a part might fail. We at GE Healthcare can already do this with select systems with solutions such as Tube Watch and OnWatch. And, finally, as healthcare systems consolidate, we may also see them create their own parts warehouses. Several of our bigger clients are leading this strategy.
O’Neill: There is a growing number of parts suppliers that are buying used equipment and then harvesting parts to sell. The challenge is that most parts harvesters are not in the business of providing service; they are simply selling parts without proof of origin or quality. In the long run, this could backfire, as parts fail and buyers focus more on working with OEMs.
24×7: What special considerations should hospitals have when purchasing medical imaging parts, in particular?
Probst: Hospitals should always know and understand their source of replacement parts for medical imaging equipment. There’s more to being a good replacement parts supplier than buying a system and selling the various pieces from it. A strong partner has a depth of technical knowledge, provides support, and sells only quality-tested parts. These partners offer customer support, ranging from parts identification to software updates and are experts on the parts they sell.
By seeking out partners that have a depth of technical knowledge and provide technical support services both pre- and post-sale, hospitals can ensure they are not only identifying the right part when issues arise, but they also have a resource if complications occur when installing the replacement piece.Working with reputable and established partners who have a proven track record of quality, dependability, and on-time delivery is vital when you constantly need to have equipment up and running.
Paré: Urgency and quality. Regarding urgency, what is the department’s requirement for getting the machine back to being fully operational? And is this a trusted supplier that will deliver the part in the agreed-upon time frame?
[Further,] parts quality is of utmost importance for imaging because it is [troubling] for patients to be rescheduled and/or diverted, and imaging produces income that the provider organizations depend upon.
O’Neill: It’s all about ensuring quality and safety by asking the right questions and working with reputable OEMs and suppliers. Knowing the origins of the parts and that they meet OEM specifications and will keep your imaging systems running as intended is paramount. There are a range of choices in the marketplace; make sure you do your homework before making a purchase, so there are no surprises down the line.
Porter: More stress is placed on clinical operations when imaging systems go down than when non-imaging devices go down. Backup systems and procedures are harder to arrange for imaging systems. As a result, HTM professionals would benefit from pre-planning with their supplier. “Is great tech support available from my supplier?” “What parts might I need on-site?” “Have they been tested?” “How can I control my total costs?” Asking these questions during a crisis, after the fact, reduces opportunity for all involved. Also, consider working with suppliers that are proven to support your HTM strategies and priorities.
24×7: What advice would you give HTM professionals regarding the handling and service of parts?
O’Neill: Developing relationships with a small number of vendors will save valuable time, ensure quality, and make for a more consistent experience. Reaching out to a larger number of suppliers to price every single part is time-consuming and makes it difficult to manage quality. So, working with a smaller number of vendors enables you to negotiate on pricing, delivery, services, etc. This will maximize investment, as well as deliver the level of service you need to meet the needs of your department.
Porter: After part quality assurance, consider looking beyond the part to the supplier. Build relationships, build measures of success and regular operating mechanisms. Co-develop stocking strategies and cost-reduction strategies. After all, suppliers typically reward you for your loyalty.
Paré: Centralized technology can deliver significant improvements in quality, cost, and visibility of delivered products.
Probst: I always stress that it is not only important to have the correct replacement part, but also that the engineers servicing imaging systems know how to handle those parts. As an HTM professional, your team of medical imaging engineers are expected to be the experts in servicing equipment and need to receive the proper training to do so. In addition, when someone isn’t sure how to service or replace a part, it is key to have a reputable partner who can provide remote tech support.
HTM professionals should proactively identify, and work with, organizations that provide parts, support and training opportunities all under one roof. Working with these third-party vendors helps ensure your in-house engineers have continuous access to quality parts, support, and training when it’s needed most.
24×7: What else do you want to tell 24×7 Magazine readers about medical equipment parts?
Paré: Formulary controls, customized data analytics, peer benchmarks, and enterprise catalog management ensure that evidence-based formulary design, cost reduction opportunities, and purchase policy can be followed across the entire health system at the click of a button through PartsSource.
Porter: The complete parts management experience—quality, ease of ordering, availability, cost, compatibility, and warranty— is critical. GE Healthcare is intensely focused on this, and we are investing in the success of our HTM professionals.
O’Neill: I recommend understanding the logistics of your whole parts network. For example, just because you order something online doesn’t necessarily mean they have the part in stock. To avoid lost revenues from downtime, it’s important to know upfront if a supplier can provide same- or next-day delivery and what charges, if any, may apply. It’s not just about the pricing of a part; it’s also about availability and delivery. We live in the age where many of us are accustomed to online retailers who provide same- or next-day delivery, but that doesn’t mean your supplier can provide that experience.
Probst: There are various options out there in the parts market beyond original equipment manufacturers. Whether you need replacement parts, service support, or training programs, third-party vendors often offer comparable, if not superior, support options at competitive prices. Healthcare facilities should always do their research and find a partner that can meet all their needs.