Like most companies, Barrington Medical Imaging (BMI), Barrington, Ill, began with a vision: to provide the US market with refurbished CT and MRI equipment that could compete with OEMs in terms of warranty, quality, and after-sale service. Partners Bill Yovic and Bill Erbes founded the company in 2000 after working together, both here and abroad, in the medical imaging service and refurbishing business. Erbes—responsible for administrative and financial management as well as for providing strategic direction and securing capital for growth—spoke with 24×7 about the company’s latest offerings and the challenges of an uncertain economic climate.

24×7: With so much attention given to the government’s recent stimulus package, is there anything in it that will affect your company’s business and the imaging market as a whole?

Erbes: Anything that will provide consumer confidence and more jobs in this difficult environment will help both BMI and the industry as a whole.

24×7: What is BMI’s specialty in the industry? What makes the company different from others in the same space?

Erbes: BMI’s specialty is providing complete solutions for customers looking at CT, MRI, and PET/CT equipment. There are many reasons why we, as a company, stand out. We have expertise in Siemens, Philips, and GE, and are now moving into the Toshiba service market. This is further defined by our recent introduction at RSNA of PULSE technologies, which is a vendor-neutral 24/7 remote monitoring/remote diagnostic device. We can handle upward of 4,000 MRI, CT, or PET/CT systems through our network, polling every 60 seconds.

BMI also offers a complete range of services, such as working with a customer’s architect to help with site planning and coordinating room construction, to the sale of refurbished equipment with a full warranty, including delivery, installation, and application training. We also provide a variety of postsale service contracts to meet any client’s budget.

24×7: What are some of the different modalities you refurbish or repair?

Erbes: We specialize in CT and MRI systems, although we are currently getting more into PET/CT modalities.

24×7: Which modalities are the most challenging to refurbish?

Erbes: All modalities have their own unique challenges in refurbishment. Right now, perhaps because it is newer for us, PET/CT is the most challenging. We try to keep abreast of newer technologies by collaborating with experts in the industry and by training our engineers whenever we have new products in our warehouse for refurbishment.

24×7: Does refurbished equipment necessarily mean “older” equipment?

Erbes: Definitely not. We sell current production systems refurbished and are seeing more and more equipment between 1 and 3 years old becoming available due to the poor economy and increased defaults. There are great opportunities out there for customers looking to upgrade equipment and get new models at significant savings.

24×7: How is BMI working to overcome the perception that refurbished is old?

Erbes: We work hard to market our products and capabilities. As people visit our Web site and talk with us, they see that we offer new-model, state-of-the-art equipment and that we provide full service on what we sell.

24×7: Do you find it easier to market yourselves as a reliable alternative at a time when many are looking for cost-effective alternatives?

Erbes: Yes, I think so. People are looking to save money on service as well as equipment right now, and they are quickly realizing that there are quality alternatives to the OEMs. Utilizing our PULSE technologies, which include 24/7 environmental monitoring and remote connectivity, BMI is partnering with customers to provide fast and reliable service that sharply reduces costs.

24×7: What sort of training does BMI have its techs focus on?

Erbes: We work hard to use our own capabilities to cross train our engineers not only on both CT and MRI, but also on specific OEMs. If we have an engineer who is an expert on GE products, we will hold a class for those engineers who were trained on Siemens or Philips and vice versa. It is a constant focus and ongoing process within BMI. We also focus highly on customer service skills, taking complex technical issues and communicating them in a friendly, nontechnical approach that our customers truly understand.

24×7: Do you mainly serve larger organizations or smaller, more independent ones?

Erbes: BMI serves a variety of hospitals, imaging centers, and multiphysician practices. It is now a fairly even mix of larger organizations and smaller independent centers.

24×7: How do you keep customers up to date on the status of their repairs? Are there any opportunities for customers to see their equipment before it is installed?

Erbes: BMI uses operational and partsdelivery dashboards throughout our automated service center. We can provide repair status for our customers, and we have developed remote monitoring and diagnostics through our PULSE technologies to give them real time information on their systems, all through a secure Web-based VPN platform.

We can stage most systems in our warehouse prior to installation, although we often find that because we are working so closely with our customers in presale, such as site planning and visits to their site, they are already comfortable with our capabilities by the time we are ready for installation.

We encourage each customer to visit our facility prior to purchasing so they can make a truly educated decision not only on selecting equipment, but also on selecting a long-term partner that will take care of all their equipment and service needs.

24×7: Is it a challenge to keep such a large parts inventory up to date?

Erbes: It is a challenge. As newer models are sold and taken under service, we have to address the parts requirements. It is something we are always looking at as we try to balance the capital cost versus the return for parts systems.

24×7: How can customers make sure they are getting the same service from a company such as BMI as they would from the OEM?

Erbes: We believe our customers get better service from BMI than they do from the OEM, and we are happy to provide customer references to new customers that may have that concern. We have found that many of our customers were not that happy with the OEM and are actively looking for a quality alternative. BMI provides industry standard up-time guarantees and response times. Our remote environmental monitoring and remote diagnostic capabilities are equal to, or better than, the OEM. Our field engineer-to-system ratio is a third of the OEM model, and that extra time helps us further our customer relationships.

24×7: What are some of the challenges the shifting climate and economy in health care have brought to your company? How will you meet them?

Erbes: We face some of the same challenges as the OEM in this uncertain economy. We see customers hesitant to make large capital purchases, and we see some of our smaller customers and hospitals experiencing cash flow problems. We will meet these challenges by showing customers how they can save money on equipment and service by buying refurbished equipment and using companies like BMI for cost-saving service alternatives. We offer a range of service products for every budget.

Stephen Noonoo is associate editor of 24×7. Contact him at .