I feel like after almost 30 years in the industry I would have seen every trick OEMs use to make it difficult for us to service our own equipment. From software keys to service “subscriptions”, their creativity to make it hard for us is quite impressive. Recently we purchased a device that the OEM has added a new twist to, making it difficult for us to service the unit and I would like to tell you about it.
Our story begins with a monthly PM list. My technician had received his PM list for the month and was going through it to group his PMs by method of completion. Equipment under contract and warranty need to have their PMs completed by the OEM or the company providing the contract. I like my team to check with the vendors to ensure our equipment is on the schedule and they intend to get the PMs completed before the month ends. This also ensures we have time to sort out any issues there may be with getting the PM completed. As my technician was examining the list he found a heart pump that was under warranty and due for inspection. He contacted the company to schedule the PM and was surprised when the company stated they do not provide PMs under warranty and they offered a PM contract on the unit.
At this point my technician told me about the situation and we went to work to try to remedy it. They sent me a PM contract for two years that was priced at $16,000. Considering the unit cost is $12,000, I felt this was excessive. My technician then tried to get the service manual so we could perform the PM ourselves. The company stated that we could not get the service manual unless we were trained on the unit. We requested training information so we could send someone to school, even though we only have one unit we figured the price of the school should be around $5,000, and the ROI would work out in about a year. When we got the quote for the school we were shocked. The school cost came in at almost $10,000 which we would have considered attending. However, the company requires the purchase of special tools from them at a cost of $34,000 in addition to the tuition. Because we only have one unit it is hard to justify that expense. Personally, I feel like this is all very purposeful.
I contacted our supply chain team to see if they had any leverage to assist us in solving this issue. Unfortunately, they were not able to help, because the unit is so specialized and we have not purchased enough of them as a system to have any leverage. The purchase amount is also small enough that it doesn’t really attract attention to worry about service and manuals. Essentially this unit was selected because it meets our cardiac program’s needs, and it is inexpensive to purchase. Because of the latter it got missed by all our controls that are in place to ensure we get manuals and PMs under warranty.
I would agree to some extent that the unit provides life support and the company is trying to protect its liability. However, having on-site trained people is always safer than waiting for the OEM to call you back. The reality of this situation is when there is a problem with the unit, my team will be called and they will do the best they can to solve the problem, but without the manual or even rudimentary training, failure is almost certain. Which means a patient may not get the treatment they need, and possibly expire. Unfortunately it may only be a situation like this that will get the company’s attention and prompt them to partner with the local team. I understand that companies are in business to make a profit, but this feels well outside normal business practices.
The company that provides this unit also sells other products, but because of this situation I will do everything in my power to ensure we do not patronize 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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