More and more healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals are entering the imaging service arena. TechNation, always looking to provide valuable information to readers, quizzed some experienced professionals about replacement tubes and bulbs.
Participants in the roundtable discussion are GE Healthcare Global Product Manager, Tubes & Service Offerings, Joe Grace; W7 Global LLC. President Wayne Kramer; and Universal Health Services Inc. Healthcare Technology Management Senior Director Christopher Nowak, CBET, CHP, CSCS.
Q: What are the most important things to look for when purchasing replacement tubes and bulbs?
Grace: Customers may value different things when it comes to purchasing replacement X-ray tubes, but quality is often a key priority for customers. This includes quality of the supplier and their reputation, and quality of the X-ray tube. Having higher quality X-ray tubes will help mitigate unexpected downtime; higher quality X-ray tubes are designed and manufactured to provide maximum performance, image quality and are backed by a warranty. It also means there is continuous improvement in the manufacturing process.
Kramer: You need to have a level of comfort with your supplier, that X-ray tubes is a regular part of their business and they have the capability of supporting you if something goes wrong. When buying preowned tubes, ask for clarity about the history, manufacture date and usage. Make sure you’re comfortable with their answers to such questions and don’t appear dodgy. Viable suppliers should always offer a reasonable warranty.
Nowak: The most important thing is to select a reputable business partner to purchase the glassware from for your needs. You need a vendor that will stand behind the products that they sell. From time-to-time, issues happen with products that fail prematurely, how your business partner responds means the difference for how you, your clinicians and the patients that are served. The reputation of the business and the sales and service people they employ is an earned characteristic that provides a consumer with a certain degree of confidence that there will not be disappointment when “things” go sideways with the parts or service purchased.
Q: What are some options customers should inquire about?
Grace: Customers should ask about tube options such as new, used or available low-cost brands. Customers should inquire about the options that surround the tube: Does your supplier have X-ray tube coverages that might save you cost? Does your supplier have predictive/proactive capabilities you might benefit from? An X-ray tube is a critical item in the imaging chain and customers should be aware of additional benefits [options] that could improve their cost position and system performance.
Kramer: It makes sense to consider brand-new OEM versus brand-new aftermarket versus preowned options. The best deals often do not come directly from the OEM. Search the market and check for available options from aftermarket suppliers and dealers like W7 Global. At W7 Global, we now offer an extended warranty option for brand-new tubes under our TubeAssurance program.
Nowak: Consumers should look at all options available when purchasing from a reputable vendor, i.e. new, pre-owned or an alternative. An example of such options could be batteries used in our medical devices. You could purchase new batteries from the medical device OEM, who do not manufacture the batteries, or you could investigate alternatives. When looking at alternatives, you must use due diligence to investigate the vendor and the vendor’s reputation, the chemistry of the alternative non-OEM battery and the specifications of the non-OEM battery. It is incumbent upon the HTM technical team to ensure compatibility and quality of any alternative or options available for your medical devices.
Q: Can you discuss the pros and cons of purchasing a new product versus a refurbished product?
Grace: A new tube has never been used and some customers prefer this fact. Refurbished tubes are another viable solution. Refurbished is not the same as “used.” Refurbished may be less expensive than new. When purchasing a refurbished tube, the customer should take the time to understand how the supplier defines refurbished and if there are any differences in the warranty between refurbished and new.
Kramer: New tubes tend to be associated with lower risk and higher cost. There can be many options for obtaining brand-new tubes, sometimes at very different prices. If you’re spending the money for a new tube, make sure you’re getting an OEM-level warranty, or at least a warranty that suits the price being offered. There are, unfortunately, some dishonest people out there trying to peddle tubes as new that aren’t, so be careful. If an offer seems too good to be true, most of the time it is. You should be able to vet the supplier through industry references and websites.
Nowak: Obviously, a new product from the OEM should assure the appropriate fitment with the device model and version, at least that would be the expectation. A refurbished product, from a third-party, offers several opportunities for the consumer, such as lower cost, similar quality, and typically a selling vendor who is invested in your success for properly servicing the medical device. Of course, many of the OEM parts these days are refurbished parts, not new parts. Unfortunately, the majority of the OEMs look at your business as transactional business. Some of these OEMs are not invested in your success, they are invested in their own success and maintaining margins rather than maintaining a long-term client. It is not always a win-win relationship with transactional business.
Q: What types of warranty and product support should customers be aware of when purchasing tubes and bulbs?
Grace: A customer should know the warranty that is being provided and have it in writing. X-ray tubes can be very expensive, so knowing what warranty coverage is provided with an X-ray tube is imperative. The customer should be comfortable with the warranty terms and who is providing these terms. In addition, product support goes beyond the tube; customers should know the level of technical knowledge and support available from the supplier as it relates to the entire system.
Kramer: Any quality X-ray tube should be supported by a competitive warranty – always. Beware of sellers looking for a quick, cheap sale and not offering a warranty. Even if you’re offered a warranty, it means nothing if the company doesn’t support it. I’ve personally experienced being offered a fantastic warranty for a used tube, only to find the supplier completely unresponsive when a claim was made. Always use a reputable company with a solid track record when buying an X-ray tube.
Generally speaking, quality used and refurbished tubes will have warranties of at least 90 days on a prorated basis. New tubes typically come with 12 months and might vary between full replacement and prorated. Some also come with usage limits, such as 100,000 scan seconds for CT. All of this is standard in the industry.
Don’t assume that buying a brand-new tube automatically means you’re avoiding the risk of warranty failure. We see plenty of warranty cases reported from tubes that came direct from the OEM.
Nowak: Consumers should expect the business partner from where you are buying parts and services to “stand behind” their products and services. Warranties should be similar, although a quality third-party provider typically has a better warranty than the OEM. It is that “investment” into your success that drives the third-party to offer a more robust product and service.
Q: What else do you think TechNation readers need to know about purchasing and servicing tubes and bulbs?
Grace: Customers should consider the long-term when it comes to purchasing a tube. A less-expensive solution today could add up over time, by way of unexpected downtime due to shorter tube life. Customers should consider how a supplier could meet their needs beyond the tube. For example, does the supplier have offerings that help them with their goals?
Kramer: One of the most important things to remember is that, whether purchasing new or preowned, you have options. Don’t assume that you have to go to the OEM and pay their asking price, even if you want to buy brand new. Check around with companies in the industry to find the most cost-effective, reliable solution that fits your specific needs and budget.
Nowak: TechNation readers should always understand that it is their responsibility, regardless of where you are buying products and services, for the quality and reliability of the products and services. Price is only one aspect of the relationship with your provider. Never make purchasing decisions based solely on price. The TechNation reader/consumer should look at all the aspects involved in a purchasing decision and should always protect the brand of your employer. A poor purchasing decision, based only on cost, could place the name of your employer on the front page of a newspaper and in a court of law with significant consequences for all involved including, and most importantly, the patient.
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