Being a person cursed with a Type-A personality, I hate anything and everything that falls into a “grey area.” I find solace in clearly defined boundaries and require that most things in my life be laid out in black and white with no ambiguity. Yes, I was the kid in second grade that chastised anyone who colored outside of the lines. With that being said, I have to admit service agreements drive me crazy. If any part of your job includes managing equipment and service, you are probably nodding your head in agreement with me right now. One topic in particular that always brings up a lot of questions with equipment buyers is the difference between updates and upgrades.
First, let’s define these words. According to Meriam Webster, updates “bring up to date,” while upgrades are “an occurrence in which one thing is replaced by something better, newer, more valuable.” With such similar meanings, the distinction between updates and upgrades immediately enters the gray area, particularly when written in equipment service contract language. Unfortunately, many buyers assume that whatever they need to keep their equipment up-to-date and running will be in included in the price of the service agreement. Regrettably, too many find out the hard way that this is not always the case.
Every equipment manufacturer defines upgrades and updates differently. Whether or not you need a certain update or upgrade depends on the type of equipment and how it will be utilized. Typically, software updates for bug fixes are provided at no cost from the manufacturer. An example of a software update might be going from software version 2.10 to 2.11. But, software upgrades to a new level, such as 2.11 to 3.0, are typically not covered. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Some service contracts may include software upgrades or offer them as an option for an additional fee. Software upgrades are sometimes included in service contracts for medical equipment with a significant software component, such as PACS and Image-Guided Surgery systems.
The most important thing to remember is, if the equipment service contract language has any ambiguous language about what is considered a software update or an upgrade, get written clarification from the manufacturer. What YOU may consider an “update” or an “upgrade” may or may not align with the original equipment manufacturer’s definitions of the terms.
Staying within the Lines
Here are some important questions to ask before purchasing any type of equipment that includes software. Asking the following questions can help determine if the additional expenditure for updates or upgrades are of value to you:
Black and White
There is a plethora of information on compliance of federal laws and regulations that govern medical devices on the FDA’s website. You can subscribe to the website and receive updates via email. In order to reduce any confusion, make sure that you understand exactly what you’re buying by reading the fine print concerning updates and upgrades in your equipment service contract.
Shelley Schuster is a Business Development Coordinator at Remi, the alternative to manufacturer service contracts and extended warranties. Remi helps hospital and other healthcare facilities streamline their equipment maintenance by replacing existing manufacturer agreements with one cost-effective program. We put you back in control of your maintenance expenditures and allow you to focus on patient care. To learn more about Remi and the services they provide, visit www.theremigroup.com, call 1-888-451-8916 #1, or check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheRemiGroup
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