While the ideal system may not yet exist, automated applications are invaluable in facilitating equipment management

 Software Buyer’s Guide
When buying biomedical-oriented management software, the name of the game is to get the best value for the dollar spent, while also procuring something that won’t afterward plague you with installation, operation, upgrade, and compatibility problems. Here is what a few experts recommend for coming out on top

• Look before you leap. Make sure the software meets your current needs and will be capable of handling anticipated needs 3 to 5 years down the road. On the flip side, buying a package that outstrips your needs can amount to a waste of money since you won’t use many of the features, warns Baltimore-based Chris Jones, Sr, senior BMET, MCP, biomed CT specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

• Ask the right questions. Perhaps the most important question, says Jones, is whether the software can run on your existing hardware (including personal digital assistants) or if you’ll first need to upgrade. He advises too that you get a handle on the amount of time necessary for a conversion from whatever older software package you might already be using. Also, learn how long it will take to obtain support in the event software problems materialize. And determine the duration of free updates to the software, plus the processes involved in extending the support/service contract. “Get all answers in writing, and then hold the vendor to his word,” Jones says.

• Ask for a test-drive. Since biomedical-management software is relatively expensive, you need to choose carefully, but not base your decision solely on promotional literature or testimonials. David A. Wirick, senior biomedical electronics technician, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, Calif, recommends you hop behind the wheel (or the mouse, as the case may be) and take the software for a spin. A time-limited demo package loaded onto your own shop’s computer will give you the best feel for a candidate package’s suitability.

• Consult your IT department. Wirick contends the appropriate time for bringing the information technology (IT) department into the loop on your purchase planning is after you have developed a general idea of what you want in the way of a software package and have identified the top prospective vendors.

“During the shopping phase, the role of IT will be mainly to determine how well each software package you’re considering would be able to interface with the hospital’s main systems and available databases,” he says. “And, of course, you’ll likely call upon IT after the purchase to create or adapt the interfaces.” —RS