Technology management runs smack into the “new economy” when reagent rentals rear up in the clinical lab. They promise technology for no-money down, but are reagent rentals the answer for lab cost containment? Maybe yes and maybe no. Imagine you’re a nine-hospital system that needs machines. How do you determine when the offer is a good deal? Read this article.

My first experience with reagent rentals and the new economy in the clinical lab happened while I was developing a three-year capital budget for the Louisiana Region of the Sisters of Charity Healthcare Corporation (SCH) in 1997.

SCH was ready to evaluate new chemistry analyzers and reagent costs. There were a number of different analyzers — all near the end of their lifetime — in the 10 SCH hospitals, so standardization was a wide-open possibility. SCH participated in the Premier purchasing group so there was very strong motivation to chose from one of the Premier Preferred Vendor contracts, but there is always room to negotiate. SCH also had a very successful self-insurance program for equipment maintenance which was managed by the in-house department in each facility.

After a three-month evaluation, one of the vendors had a winning proposal on the table. “If all 10 facilities would standardize on any appropriate model of their analyzers and commit to a five-year agreement, the analyzers, all reagents and supplies and service would be combined into a single reagent rental agreement at the most favorable terms.”

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