eBay offers imaging equipment; service contract leads to community service; technology council named; alarms guide released; Intellamed acquires Healthcare Engineering Inc; META meeting; medical expedition to rain-forest tribes

 EBay Offers Medical Imaging Equipment for Online Bidding
On any given day, millions of items across thousands of categories are sold on eBay. And now, believe it or not, medical imaging equipment has been put on the auction block.

EBay has teamed with Andover, Mass-based InnoCentive Inc to offer the medical community an efficient way to purchase equipment online. EBay has offered medical test and measurement devices for some time. Now, used, refurbished, and new imaging equipment—ranging from ultrasound equipment to x-ray film processors—can be purchased from anywhere in the world via the Internet.

“The category offers a solution for smaller practices that can’t afford to purchase the equipment directly from the OEMs,” said Jordan Glazier, general manager of eBay Business. “InnoCentive provides an avenue for these types of buyers to reach us and purchase the types of equipment they need.”

According to Glazier, the average price for equipment bought through the site is anywhere from 29% to 70% less than if bought through conventional avenues. And with time being an issue, especially within the medical industry, eBay offers Buy It Now, a feature that allows customers to forego the bidding process in order to purchase the item instantly.

“We’ve seen a high adoption for this fixed-price format,” Glazier adds. “We’ve found that the buyers for these types of equipment love being able to find what they are looking for, at a price they can afford, and then have the ability to buy it on the spot.”

Naturally, when purchasing anything from an unknown source, quality is a concern. And for those purchasing medical equipment online, that concern is amplified when coupled with a concern for safety.

“Each seller posting on the site has to verify that it is a certified medical facility, and the same goes for those who are purchasing the equipment,” Glazier explained. “We work with the FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] to make sure all the rules and regulations are in place for exchanging these types of machines in this kind of market.”

Purchasing the products online is just the beginning. For many small practices considering this avenue for obtaining equipment, the purchasing is the simple part. The more difficult decisions are how to ship the equipment and what installation and service contracts will be involved.

“What we’ve found is that most medical facilities have their own service providers that they’ve been able to form relationships with over the years,” Glazier said. “The feedback for this entire segment of the purchase has been extremely positive. The companies buying the equipment are able to have someone they trust install and service the equipment, while the service companies love the extra business. It works out for everyone involved.”

 Service Contract Leads to Community Service
Business as usual for Conquest Imaging means providing system sales, parts, and service to hospitals and clinics throughout the Southwest. But upon making a service call to a pregnancy care clinic in Concord, Calif, the Stockton, Calif-based company realized a whole new meaning of what it is to make a difference to customers.

While at the clinic, Jeff Fregger, a Conquest field service engineer, spoke with administrators and nurses who care for expectant mothers. “According to the professionals at the clinic, it is believed that when a pregnant woman views her baby on the ultrasound monitor, she has a positive attitude with regard to becoming a mother,” says Fregger. “This revelation actually results in an increased awareness to prenatal care.”

In fact, report sources at the Concord clinic, 90% of women who have an ultrasound choose to follow their pregnancy through to full term.

As a result of the tremendous impact viewing an unborn child through ultrasound has on pregnant women, Conquest Imaging has donated a refurbished Acuson 128 XP ultrasound system and various other machines to the clinic. When the machine was first introduced to the market several years ago, it had an estimated value of $250,000. The company has also agreed to service the donated equipment at no charge.

“The Concord clinic had only two machines before our donation. We feel that if seeing an image of an unborn child influences the health and well-being of both mother and child, then we are going to make it as easy as possible for clinics to offer the procedure,” says Mark Conrad, president of Conquest Imaging. “It’s heartwarming to think that our machines have a direct contribution to someone’s life.”

Through its work with the Concord clinic, the company has recognized women’s health as a critical issue throughout the country. As a result, Conquest has expanded its charitable contributions to include a health care clinic in Woodland, Calif. The company has donated an entire ultrasound system to the Woodland clinic and also is working with a similar clinic in Chicago.

“It’s not about dollars and cents,” adds Conrad. “The work these clinics do is extremely important. If this is what it takes to support these expectant mothers in keeping themselves and their babies healthy, then it becomes an easy decision to offer our company’s resources.”

Technology Management Council
The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) board of directors has formed a new technology management council to better serve the interests of biomedical equipment technicians, clinical engineers, and other technology managers.

A five-member executive committee has been named to organize the council’s first meeting, which will be held June 5 at the AAMI 2004 Conference and Expo in Boston.

More than 20 technology managers have been named to the council, which is expected to help increase the visibility and recognition of technology managers, promote educational efforts, and expand networking opportunities.

“This council is an important mechanism for AAMI to get a new perspective on the needs of technology managers and provide a means for addressing those needs,” says council member Steve Yelton, PE, chairman of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College’s biomedical equipment and information systems technology program.

All AAMI conference attendees also are invited to attend a public forum on June 7 to discuss the needs of the technology management committee.

“Just the term ‘technology management’ shows that there’s more to service than maintenance and repair,” adds council member Jeff Kabachinski, MCNE, MS-T, manager of GE Healthcare’s Multivendor Services Technical Training.

The council, which was created by AAMI’s board of directors, is an outgrowth of efforts started in 2003 by a special BMET task force, which examines issues facing the technology management field and ways that technology managers can best interact with AAMI.

 Medical Alarms Management Guide Released
In collaboration with Ode Keil Consulting Group, Clinical Dynamics Corp has announced the recent release of its free guide, Managing Medical Alarms: A Practical Approach to Meeting the JCAHO National Patient Safety Goal. The guide was developed in response to questions by industry professionals with regard to establishing a process to meet and exceed the requirements to manage medical alarms according to the JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) standards.

“Patient safety is an essential part of quality of care,” says Ode Keil, president of the Ode Keil Consulting Group. “As the ability to treat high-risk patients increases, it has become more critical to rely on technology. In many cases, the technology detects impending harm sooner than humans. Unless alarms used to notify the humans of the impending harm are managed correctly, we have failed the patient.”

JCAHO accredited organizations were required to comply with a set of six National Patient Safety Goals effective January 1, 2003. Many organizations have had questions about which goals apply to their organization and how to comply with the requirements.

“We’ve received a fair amount of requests for this kind of information,” says Joe Rebot, vice president of sales and marketing for Clinical Dynamics. “So we view the development of the guide as a strong tool for the industry.”

A copy of the guide can be downloaded from Clinical Dynamics’ Web site, www.clinicaldynamics.com.

Intellamed Announces Acquisition of Healthcare Engineering Inc
Intellamed (Bryan, Tex), a provider of resources for the procurement, support, and final disposition of capital equipment, has acquired Healthcare Engineering Inc (Houston), a provider of clinical engineering maintenance services and equipment procurement to almost 100 health care customers in the Southwest.

A spokesperson for Intellamed states that the merger of the companies enhances Intellamed’s ability to provide customers with a complete array of maintenance services, including on-site biomedical programs, imaging services, preventive maintenance programs, and other service-related options.

Intellamed supports three Web-based procurement programs: Refurb-e-Search for refurbished equipment, Auctionmart for equipment disposition services, and IntellaParts for parts procurement.

META Meeting to take Place at AAMI Conference
The first annual META (Medical Equipment and Technology Association) membership meeting will take place June 4 in Boston. The organization invites AAMI attendees to network and contribute to the progression of the national biomedical technicians association.

The meeting’s agenda includes discussions and decisions made on bylaws and benefits and the direction the association will be taking in the future. Attendees can also participate in informational roundtable discussions and are invited to a hosted dinner.

For more information, visit META at www.mymeta.org.

 Medical Expedition Brings Technology to Isolated Rain-Forest Tribes

On April 5, a multidisciplinary team embarked on an 8-week humanitarian mission into the Brazilian rain forest to provide medical treatment and preventive care for isolated indigenous tribes located in the remote Vale do Javari region.

The expedition, Imagem do Javari, is the first to bring advanced medical imaging equipment to the area’s tribes to diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as hepatitis A, B, and D; yellow fever; malaria; and tuberculosis.

“Indians were dying from various diseases after being contacted by outsiders,” states sources from the FUNAI (the Isolated Tribes Division of the Brazilian government’s Federal Indian Bureau). “We chose this area of the Amazon because there are no health organizations currently in place there to treat these kinds of diseases.”

Because the Vale do Javari region lacks laboratory facilities capable of screening for infectious diseases, the team has brought its own imaging equipment into the isolated region. The digital imaging technology is provided by the Eastman Kodak Co’s Health Imaging Group. The DirectView CR 500 system and DirectView PACS System 5 have been transported by boat deep into the Vale do Javari—a region covering roughly 20.7 million acres along the Itu and Itaqua rivers near the borders of Peru and Colombia. Once the equipment is in place, images are sent via satellite to Clinica Imagem, an advanced radiology clinic in Florianópolis, Brazil, for analysis and consultation.

Over the course of the expedition, physicians will screen 800 to 1,000 members of the Matis, Marubo, Kanamari, and Korubo tribes. The team is spending 4 to 10 days in each village performing radiological exams, ultrasound screening, and blood tests. Because of the isolated nature of the mission, time, resources, and capabilities are at a minimum; there is no room for inefficiencies. According to sources from FUNAI, every member on the team has a function and expertise. The 18-member team consists of epidemiologists, radiologists, nurses, translators, and biomedical technicians from both Kodak and Clinica Imagem. Sources from FUNAI add that although the team consists of two biomedical technicians, each physician is knowledgeable about the equipment functions and able to perform minimal repairs.

“In a situation such as this, where imaging equipment has been brought into an isolated region like the rain forest to treat an endangered society, it is vital that these pieces of technology are both reliable and maintained throughout the duration of the expedition, however tumultuous the environment may be,” says a spokesperson from Kodak’s Health Imaging Group.