In late November, Milwaukee-based Alpha Source acquired BC Technical, doubling the size of the former company. Below, Alpha Source CEO Rick Lytle discusses what the merger means for the healthcare industry and advises HTM professionals about what to look for when selecting a service provider.
24×7 Magazine: There are a lot of options out there—something we delve into in February’s cover story: “The Great Debate: OEM vs. Third Party Service.” What do you recommend decision makers keep in mind when developing a service delivery plan for their medical equipment?
Rick Lytle: Sorting through the various options can be challenging. While cost is inevitably a priority, the overall decision requires a broader focus on quality, capability, and partnership. First, decide what your needs actually are: For instance, what types of equipment do you have?
What services do you offer? Do you need a full-service provider or a support partner? Is your installed base primarily one OEM, or multi-vendor? Narrow your search by considering the pros and cons of each, exploring all potential vendors. Think about service delivery capability as a whole—and take note of coverages, response times and inventory supply.
Also, there are new types of companies to consider in the marketplace that offer a combination of the quality of OEMs and the value of an independent service provider (ISO). Case in point: Alpha Source’s acquisition of BC Technical, which brought together two highly skilled teams that can now service a continuum of health care providers’ imaging equipment maintenance and repair needs.
24×7: How do you select an equipment service provider you can trust?
Lytle: Having a provider you can readily rely on should take top priority. I recommend asking other healthcare providers and colleagues for their opinion or recommendation.
Top indicators of a trustworthy service provider include: ISO certification, repair and remote service capability, preventative maintenance service capability, parts inventory, training level of the field team, and a track record of performance. Additional aspects to consider include years of experience, financial stability, location and experience of the repair engineer, and insurance and liability coverage.
24×7: How can ISOs help health care providers manage total cost of ownership?
Lytle: Hospital budgets are shrinking, and decision makers need to find new and creative ways to manage the cost of equipment ownership. In general, ISOs offer competitive pricing, primarily due to their size and limited overhead. And there are several other factors that can play into decreasing total cost of ownership.
Many times, customers will choose ISOs that support systems that the OEM has deemed “end of life.” This allows ISOs to extend the life of a system well past its perceived end of service life, so that health care providers don’t have to purchase a newer device. Reduced parts and service pricing combine to significantly reduce total cost of ownership.
Another factor that impacts total cost of ownership is equipment downtime. Many third-party vendors are smaller and, therefore, can be nimble and flexible in finding and providing solutions.
At the same time, national scale matters. Independent service organizations like Alpha Source and BC Technical are large enough to reach both major and smaller markets. With the right ISO partner, response times should be quick, decreasing downtime and ensuring higher usage.
24×7: As an ISO provider, what do you think about the ongoing debate surrounding the evolving regulation and oversight to all entities that service medical devices?
Lytle: I believe that quality management across the industry is prudent for two reasons: First, it is important for a service company to have quality systems in place that will keep patients safe. We know that regulatory bodies value service organizations with quality systems in place.
We also see that OEMs choose service partnerships based on the sophistication of service companies’ quality management systems. It is to everyone’s benefit and safety to ensure that all equipment service providers are undergoing the same high-quality training and practices.
We hope all third-party vendors will use the standards as an opportunity to work toward top-notch service and training, while striving to offer more affordable pricing. After all, in our rapidly growing and changing industry, it’s important to keep quality and safety a top priority.