Focused on providing hospitals WITH a quality, cost-saving alternative for the support of physiological monitoring equipment, MedEquip Biomedical (Doral, Fla) is a worldwide, independent depot repair center and third-party provider of service parts. With an inventory of more than 2,000 patient monitors, MedEquip also sells and rents pre-owned monitoring systems. President and cofounder Michael Balakonis recently spoke with 24×7 about what makes the company unique and how it overcomes the challenges of keeping up with the evolution of physiological monitoring.
24×7: Can you tell me a little bit about your personal history and your history with the company?
Balakonis: I spent nearly 20 years in hospitals working as a technician or managing biomedical departments before starting MedEquip. Through my hospital experience, I realized that at almost any given time, a patient monitor was broken. In many instances, there was no alternative but to go to the manufacturer for parts or service. The idea to form a specialized multi-vendor service company was born from those days in the hospital environment. In the beginning, my cofounder, Michael Lipson, and I did everything, from packing and shipping to billing. Now, both of us dedicate our time to strategic planning and development, and overseeing the daily business functions of the corporation.
24×7: What is the history of your company? How did it get to where it is today?
Balakonis: MedEquip started in 1996 with one manufacturer’s line of monitors. As our revenues and staff grew, we began adding additional products. Currently, there are five manufacturers that we support: HP/Philips, GE/Marquette, Spacelabs, Siemens, and Datascope. This product offering satisfies about 90% of the installed base of patient monitors. In 2003 we achieved ISO 9001:2000 quality certification, which now serves as the foundation of our business model. Our customer base is more than 1,800 hospitals nationwide, many independent service companies, and a growing international clientele. MedEquip is also a partner with Andros for gas-monitoring applications as an exclusive, authorized service provider.
24×7: What are a few of the challenges you have faced over the years? How have you overcome them?
Balakonis: From the start, MedEquip has faced technology hurdles and challenges. MedEquip learned early on that it needed to innovate and stay current with technology in order to exist in this market. Most modern medical equipment is sold without schematics, and almost everything today is software-driven. There are proprietary issues with the original equipment manufacturers not wanting anyone but themselves providing aftermarket service and support. I’ve always had the philosophy that if it can be engineered, it can be reverse-engineered. Therefore, considerable efforts were placed on developing an in-house engineering team to overcome these challenges.
24×7: Where do you see the industry heading? How do you think MedEquip Biomedical will adapt to these trends?
Balakonis: In the future, almost every medical device will be tied into the IT backbone of the hospital. More and more wireless technology will be employed, and biomedical technicians will have to evolve in their jobs to survive. MedEquip will stay educated in all ways regarding the technology side of the market, and we will always have our niche with our ability to service one or more subsections of a patient monitor. MedEquip will adapt by using our strong engineering team to stay current with technology.
24×7: What distinguishing feature(s) set you apart from your competitors?
Balakonis: The main distinguishing factor for MedEquip Biomedical is that we are a company of biomedical professionals who have stood in the shoes of our customers. Also, MedEquip is the only third-party company specializing in patient monitors that has achieved the ISO 9001:2000 quality certification. In addition, we have a technical-support call center where our customers can receive free troubleshooting and clinical application advice. Our goal is to equal or surpass the original manufacturer’s level of support but with easier access.
24×7: What else would you like 24x7’s readers to know about MedEquip Biomedical?
Balakonis: Our mission is to provide the biomedical professional with cost-effective, comprehensive equipment planning and service solutions. We don’t just throw parts at a problem. Versed in clinical application and technical support, MedEquip offers our customers free phone support in these areas. We will beat any company’s advertised price and warranty. Continuous enhancement of our quality system and valued added services set us apart from the competition. Our existing customer base knows that many miscellaneous items are free for the asking. We will also continue to support and sponsor biomedical associations nationwide. Ultimately, it is feedback and open communication with our customers that drive MedEquip. As owners, Michael Lipson and I will always remain accessible to our customers and suppliers no matter how large we grow.
Michelle Said is a contributing writer for 24×7. For more information, contact us at [email protected].