I have always been an advocate for purchasing refurbished medical equipment. It provides options when there is an unplanned need due to equipment failure, expanded service or budget overruns. Until lately, we have never had an issue with an equipment purchase. A recent experience has taught me a few things that I feel compelled to share in hopes my readers don’t make the same mistake.
We have used refurbished equipment many times to replace aging equipment. About two years ago, we were building out a new physician office suite and due to some unforeseen construction costs the project was tracking to be woefully over budget. I contacted our refurbished equipment dealer and he quoted the equipment for us and saved us over $200,000 which helped get the project budget back on track. We have also used refurbished equipment to replace equipment that cannot be repaired, because parts aren’t available. We frequently purchase refurbished NIBP monitors as my customers never seem to have enough. My experience has been that used equipment is a viable alternative to new equipment in many cases.
Given the amount of used equipment we have purchased, we have not had too many issues with the equipment. We have occasionally had equipment that needed to be serviced but the dealer we use always stands behind the products he sells and does whatever it takes to solve the problem. I think most reputable companies do the same. We typically only use one company as we have a good relationship and they are a trusted partner.
My issue started with a call from one of my technicians about a unit he sent to the manufacturer for repair. He was having trouble getting it to connect to our network and the manufacturer recommended he send it in to get the software updated. Everything seemed to be going as planned, except when my tech called for a status update, the company said that the unit was their loaner.
Which meant they weren’t going to send it back. At this point I needed information, so I started digging. What I found was the unit was refurbished, purchased by the physician’s office before we took over their equipment maintenance. When we added the unit to our inventory we weren’t given any purchasing information which is not uncommon in situations like this. Therefore, we were unaware that the unit was refurbished. I contacted the physician to find out who sold him the unit so I could contact them about the situation and decide how to proceed.
My first contact with the reseller was not very good, the reseller went into defense mode. He claimed that the unit he sold us was not the same serial number as the unit we had. He actually implied that someone removed his company sticker and stuck it on the unit. He then continued to send me a sales document that had a serial number on it but not the one we had. Since my team did not check the unit in when it first came in (over a year ago) I could not verify one way or the other that we received the unit he stated. All I knew was we would not have re-stickered a unit with a refurbishers company on it just to place ownership on them. In my mind this situation really is a problem with the OEM; did they really lose track of their loaner? Had they already contacted the original owner of the unit and charged them for the loaner? I decided I should call the reseller– utilizing email wasn’t getting it done for me and sometimes people say things in email that can be misinterpreted. When I spoke to the reseller the conversation was a lot better than the email exchange we had been having. He admitted that he himself did not verify the serial number on the unit, he used the documents the seller provided him to issue the number. Therefore, he was not 100 percent certain of the serial number. At the end of the conversation, he told me he had contacted the original owner of the unit to find out what they knew.
This situation is still going on. I have spoken to the CEO of the OEM and the reseller. We are trying to work something out. The original owner of the unit has stated that he had a loaner in his possession at one time, but was certain he returned it. All I can say is, “Ugh!” We have finally coerced the OEM to send us a loaner so we can continue to treat patients until the situation gets resolved.
My point in writing this is so others may use this experience as an educational moment. As I stated, utilizing refurbished equipment can solve a lot of problems. However I recommend that you ensure that the reseller is reputable and actually refurbishes the equipment not just brokering the equipment. When the equipment comes in, you should thoroughly check it and verify that the serial number matches the sales receipt. Something our physician’s office did not do. If they had it would have avoided this entire situation. I still love the company I regularly use as I seldom have problems with them. However, this situation reminds me that there are others out there that require a little more due diligence before purchasing from them.
Jim Fedele, CBET, is the director of clinical engineering for Susquehanna Health Systems in Williamsport, Pa. He can be reached for questions and/or comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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