As the health care climate continues to put enormous pressure on hospitals and physicians to reduce spending without impacting outcomes, so too are service providers feeling the pressure to cut costs while maintaining optimal service. To compete in this environment, every vendor offering services to the health care industry is being asked to cut prices at every corner without compromising on quality and service. As a result, original equipment manufactures (OEM) are looking for ways to stay competitive on price and to look for other ways to turn a profit. A good comparison to this environment is the airline industry. No one wants the airlines to compromise quality or service to cut costs, but the businesses cannot survive without an increase somewhere in the value chain. Therefore, the industry has resorted to tacking on extra fees for baggage, premium seats, food and beverage, and the list goes on.
Like added charges for baggage, one of the strategies in place by OEMs of medical equipment as of late has been deals with training. Whether putting restrictions on training, raising the price on training, or not offering training at all, hospitals are left with no choice but to pay above the service contract for any preventive maintenance (PM), repairs or service on medical equipment. What many don’t know is that there is in fact a cost-effective choice: purposefully investing in your in-house HTM staff by negotiating training opportunities upfront during the capital purchase negotiations and seeking out third-party partners to help build out internal capabilities through powerful training programs.
Negotiation with manufacturers can help save additional dollars in both the short and long run. In most purchases, hospitals should opt for short-term maintenance and warranty and rely on trained staff to service the equipment. Aligning with the hospital’s values and goals, decide whether it is better to pay a higher price for a better warranty and service contract options, or do you need to get a lower cost with less coverage and rely on your internal staff? If your staff is properly trained, you may not need a warranty and can negotiate lower costs for sale of the purchase. If staff is not fully trained, the best short-term solution is negotiating training opportunities during the purchase agreement so the HTM staff can receive proper training directly from the OEM. Another viable option would be to negotiate training and roll down provisions if a short-term service contract is necessary.
For the long term, the goal should be to move toward a best in class high-yield program that is independent from costly OEM service and contracts. To achieve this, hospitals must invest in developing a comprehensive program to train its own staff and offer career paths for each individual to advance and grow. It is proven that effective and appropriate training can save time and money as well as possibly extend the life of the devices; not to mention a trained staff is one that is engaged and feels like he/she is able to use their talents to contribute to the continuum of care.
The biggest hurdle to training staff lies is finding the time to dedicate and money to invest. The reality is the money saved on expensive service contracts and long repair times can be saved to invest in training onsite staff to service, maintenance and repair devices as well as anticipate the life cycle of equipment. It’s very likely the staff is more than qualified and capable of carrying out the job as long as the proper training is received.
The best and most cost-effective approach to training an entire HTM staff is to contract with an outside company who specializes in training and career advancement for health care technology managers. Engaging in a partnership doesn’t mean you have to eliminate your staff to hire a staff chosen by the third-party. It’s as simple as keeping the department and staff intact and providing on-going training that empowers the technicians to not only perform tasks and duties he/she is capable of doing, but also providing an opportunity to advance their career from an entry level to upper management or specialist.
In the current model of HTM departments with high service contract dependency, there is typically just one technician for all levels of expertise. This gives technicians no motivation to advance skills or even be promoted. With training and opportunity for advancement, technicians will be recognized and compensated for their level of skill and expertise.
Opportunities to be trained and to advance your career go a long way to re-engaging staff and eliminating costly attrition from a less motivated and disengaged department. And by increasing the skill level of staff onsite, the overall cost of service contracts and related repair and downtime are decreased significantly saving thousands of dollars a year.
Investing in training of in-house staff to provide support versus relying on the OEM can significantly improve response time, reduce downtime and eliminate exorbitant costs by leveraging on-site expertise of individuals who are more familiar with the operations and needs of the hospital.
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