United Medical Instruments

Dennis RaybouldUnited Medical Instruments (UMI) is a worldwide provider of new and preowned ultrasound systems, probes (transducers), and parts. Founded in 2000, the San Jose, Calif-based company is deep-rooted in the field of ultrasound and in the belief that the customer comes first. 24×7 recently spoke with Dennis Raybould, UMI’s vice president of service operations, about the often-overlooked world of ultrasound and the importance of making sure customers don’t feel the same way.

24×7: Please give some background into the development of the company.
Dennis Raybould:
UMI is a merger of three principal partners who had served as executives for such companies as Diasonics and GE. Each had been operating his own company for almost 10 years, servicing and selling used and refurbished ultrasound equipment. In 2000, the three founders of what would become UMI agreed to pool their efforts to concentrate on growing one business.

24×7: What needs does UMI satisfy within the biomedical industry?
Raybould: UMI is focused exclusively on ultrasound so that our time and efforts are not diverted to other modalities. We literally provide everything having to do with ultrasound, including all ultrasound parts, biomedical training, maintenance and repair services, probes, probe repair services, and tech support.

d04b.jpg (15134 bytes)As a competitive company, we know that our customers can purchase parts from anyone; but because we are solely focused on ultrasound, we offer customers that little extra boost with regard to customer service. We make ourselves available for customers over the phone for those “Do you think I’m on the right track?” kinds of things.

24×7: What types of ultrasound products does the company provide to the market?
Raybould: We provide all types of systems—new and refurbished, all makes and brands. We don’t have any one type that we promote over others. We feel that we can better help the customer if we supply them with the machine that will work for them in their own environments instead of trying to push a certain type of system.

We take the extra step by offering advice to customers to help them select the equipment that will best fit their needs. We ask customers what kinds of studies they will be doing and what they expect their throughput to be. All these factors are taken into account when determining what kind of machine to recommend to them.

24×7: Because UMI manages the sale of refurbished ultrasound equipment, how does the company stay current with regard to servicing new equipment?
Raybould: The first year that something is on the market, it’s difficult to do anything with it. But, as that first-year warranty becomes due, the information needed to take care of those systems becomes available. We obtain the new product and basically self-train ourselves using the system’s manuals and our own expertise on the system to understand what’s going on.

24×7: What kinds of training programs does the company offer?
Raybould:
We offer all levels of service-training programs for biomeds. Classes range from a basic ultrasound course, which teaches some of the basics of ultrasound and Doppler color theory, all the way to advanced training for the specific systems they’ll be working on in the field.

For those customers who need a little extra training on the application end of the system, we also do applications training for ultrasound end-users. These classes are for those who are new to ultrasound. Our courses help them become more familiar with the system so that they can understand how to get the image they really need.

We started these courses a little more than 2 years ago, and although they make up only 3–5% of our business, they lead the way for other things. We’ve found that once we train someone, they tend to come back to us for tech support and parts. We also can provide application training to our customer as and when needed.

24×7: Where do you see the market heading?
Raybould:
I see biomeds in the field being more prominent in the ultrasound market than they’ve ever been. I’ve seen them become more involved in CT, MRI, and gamma camera issues, but it seems that ultrasound is the last thing that biomed engineers focus their energies on. However, today it seems to be the latest trend to become more in tune, so to speak, with this particular modality. We’re seeing more and more people wanting to train their biomed people on ultrasound. Hospitals, clinics, and medical centers want to take control of their own destiny by not having to rely on the OEM. These types of facilities want to partner with a company like us to supply ultrasound parts, probes, and technical training at a better price than what they can get from the OEM.

24×7: What would you like 24×7 readers to learn about UMI?
Raybould:
UMI is a service-based ultrasound company that sells parts, probes, and systems. We identify and solve the problem thoroughly to avoid “trial-error.” Our first-time hit ratio is very high when servicing the system. We give customers the kind of one-on-one attention that OEMs are going away from. For us, the relationship we have with our customers is a much more personal one. When customers call our office, they get a live person—not an answering machine. In this way, we can provide our customers with the service they need and deserve.

Over the years, I think OEMs have become a little unfocused on their customers’ needs. I think OEMs today are more into their bottom lines and their needs as a company, and I see them losing focus on what the customer wants. I see a lot of rhetoric from them about wanting to help the customer, but I don’t see them actually doing anything—and I think the customer is noticing as well. 24×7