Happy Anniversary

LarkinFive years ago, a new publication was brought forth that invited people working in the healthcare technology management, service and support industry to do the math — 24×7.

The magazine — this magazine — was built on a firm foundation. Second Source blazed our trail in the late 1980s, treating medical equipment service as an important industry worthy to be covered by an independent business magazine. With Second Source as a standard bearer to rally ‘round, the diverse groups charged with keeping medical technology safe and available — from in-house biomeds to independent X-ray service providers to manufacturers’ field service organizations — began to gather and we saw how large of a force we really were … and are.

Today, estimates of our industry’s economic impact exceed $20 billion, although no one is really sure how far our universe stretches. Scientists keep inventing new technologies for healthcare, or applying systems developed for other fields. Eventually someone has to fix the new stuff and our responsibilities grow.

With size came attention, and tension. Business practices became stricter and the spirit of “friendly competition” among service providers seemed a nostalgic memory. This magazine was created because healthcare is first and foremost a people business — there are other ways to make a living that don’t demand 24×7 attention! — and a magazine about the business of healthcare technology management, service and support must devote itself to the dedicated people who keep our industry vibrant.

For example, we featured a question and answer session with Manny Roman of DITEC in the first issue of 24×7. Manny observed that the ascendance of asset management did not change our industry’s basic function.

“We find ourselves in a different environment — one that ignores the fact that we’re all consumers,” he said. “Does somebody have to get killed, because equipment is not being maintained properly, before we begin to look at the quality of service again?”

Unfortunately, patient deaths have occurred due to technology management issues beyond basic maintenance. A six-year old boy died after an accident in an MRI suite this July. The hospital has been commendably candid about the tragedy and we can learn from its experience. Please read the entire story in our Browser on page 6.

The story everyone seems to remember from our first issue is our infamous Sports Illustrated-style roundup of independent service organizations. We focused on seven national powerhouse teams, substantially neglecting smaller companies and regional players. And boy-oh-boy, were we ever wrong!

Amsco, InnoServ, Serviscope and National MD were our star players, ready to lead the industry. They’re all gone now, assimilated into GE Clinical Services Inc., which has become the industry’s revenue leader and a formidable competitor. Some predicted GE CSI would crush the industry. It hasn’t.

COHR MasterPlan went public about six months before our first issue. We remarked at its meteoric growth. We didn’t predict its plunge into an often-ugly roller-coaster ride between 1997 and 1999. Spun off, regrouped and back in private hands, Masterplan is one of the few survivors from our 1996 Dream Team.

MEDIQ/PRN is also still around, but it never made a major push into delivering on-site biomedical services, and now that it is going through post-bankruptcy reorganization, it’s not likely to get into the fray.

The only star we were right about was ServiceMaster, which we said “should continue to be a force in multivendor service for the foreseeable future.”

And if we stretch we can claim one decent dark-horse pick. “Novare remains a wild card,” we wrote, and indeed, shortly after the for-profit service activities of Catholic Health Initiatives was spun off in 1998, Novare became the cornerstone of Patriot Medical Technologies, a growing national player.

Ain’t this a fun industry?

Oh, and by the way, we’ve become so attached to the “Second Source” name that we’re bringing it back. Look for it next month as the new moniker for our Marketplace section.

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