Maximize Medical Equipment Purchase Part#2: Understanding The True Cost of Medical Equipment Ownership

Medical equipment purchases are a major investment that could either make your life easier or be a never ending money pit

Before buying a new piece of medical equipment, the purchaser must ask some serious questions to truly understand the cost of ownership and to be able to compare apples to apples when making their selection. Over the years of working in the medical equipment industry, I have seen countless scenarios where purchasers did not understand the cost of ownership and missed out on cost saving opportunities at the beginning phase of the sales process. To help you understand the cost of ownership, I have summarized key areas where the hidden costs often appear and shared tips of how to maximize your purchase. Hopefully by me sharing my experience it will be helpful when you are considering purchasing new equipment or to gain more value out of your existing equipment.


Regular preventative maintenance costs

Preventive maintenance is an unavoidable expense. During equipment testing and field use, manufacturers identify areas on the equipment that breakdown from normal use. These parts need to be replaced proactively according to the recommended PM schedule. If not, your equipment may fail and you could experience an increase in equipment downtime or it could cause patient harm. Oftentimes these parts are sold in kits and range in price. Its a wise idea to ask upfront what the total cost of preventative maintenance parts are before purchasing the equipment. That way you can budget accordingly and you avoid unexpected surprises down the road. 


Lastly, find out prior to purchasing if these preventative maintenance kits are covered during the warranty period as most are not and must be completed after the warranty has expired.  In this case, it is wise to perform the preventative maintenance check prior to the warranty expiring so if any part is found to be defective or questionable, it can be repaired or replaced under warranty.


Batteries are a big expense

If the medical device has a battery, find out how often that battery needs to be replaced and the cost of the battery.  Some medical device batteries are very expensive and hard to get.  Always see if there is a second source for the batteries or if they are vendor specific. If a manufacturer suggests a battery to be replaced every two years, they do so for a reason.  They have found that during regular use, the battery will supply the unit with adequate power to function properly for two years.  After two years the unit may continue to function properly but not to the standards that it would have in the past.  If the piece of equipment is a life saving device such as a defibrillator, don’t try and push the life of the battery longer as someone’s life may depend on it.  If the device is always plugged in and is never used on the battery, you can make the decision to extend the replacement cycle.  However, just remember that it may fail during a power outage.  Also, if you plan on extending the replacement of the battery, make sure that you have the battery checked regularly so that it hasn’t started to leak.  Acid leaking from a battery can cause a lot more damage to internal parts of the equipment, costing more than it would have to just replace the battery.  You may even have to replace the whole unit at this point. So do not neglect the batteries.


Aging Equipment

As the unit gets older, more regular maintenance will be required. Parts wear out from regular use, electronic components go out of tolerance, and these can all affect the overall performance of the equipment.  Keeping up with regular maintenance will keep your equipment running like new and prolong the life of the equipment.  Whether you do this maintenance in-house, by the vendor/manufacturer or third party, have an idea what the cost will be by asking the question prior to purchasing.  Some equipment is basically a yearly preventative maintenance procedure with minimal part replacement while others can have cycles such as weekly, monthly, semi-annually, annual, every 2 years, 3 years and so on.  As you go up in years these preventative maintenance costs can and usually do increase.  Find out if the unit or accessories such as specialized probes, are required to be sent in to the manufacturer for regular calibration as these can not be serviced in the field.  Also some equipment is based on hours of use.  Find out if the timer continues to run if the power is on and the unit is not in use.  In this case you will want to turn off the power to the equipment when not in use to prevent adding unused hours.


Unexpected Costs

There’s always the unexpected costs of a piece of equipment breaking down between regular maintenance.  As in the previous blog, asking the manufacturer prior to purchasing the most common parts that break down and the associated costs can save unexpected surprises during ownership.  Also, prior to purchasing sometimes you can get the costs of the parts and services kits locked into the contract so you know that the cost will not go up if or when you do need them replaced.  During negotiations is the best time to ask for the moon because after it can cost you the moon if you don’t.


Extended warranties or service contracts

Finally, find out about the cost of extended warranties or service contracts up front.  Again these can be negotiated into the purchase price.  By having these numbers along with the numbers of the replacement parts and preventative maintenance cost, you can make an educated decision if a service contract (parts only, parts and service) is a more viable investment.  For instance, if a major part that can break down is equal or greater than the cost of a contract then you may want to purchase the contract to save unexpected costs down the line.  Look as if it is an insurance policy on your equipment, sometimes you use it and sometimes you don’t, but it's there if you need it. 

Whichever route you decide to go with, always have a fully qualified biomedical engineering tech doing the work as they have been trained on all the safety and government regulations the equipment needs to pass.  Remember, someone’s life depends on the equipment to work properly. 

Do you have questions about the costs of your medical equipment ownership? Fill out the form below, we would be happy to help!