By Jim Fedele, CBET
In my opinion, asset management is the one of the most valuable activities we do. Guiding and recommending purchases for our customers is probably one of the most frequent requests I get. Our processes direct requestors of equipment to contact us to assist them with equipment selection. This ensures that we get equipment that we can service, that is our standard throughout the system, and it is from a partnering vendor. By being included in the process early, we can eliminate serviceability and installation surprises. However, for the purpose of this article, I would like to discuss the pro and cons of the standardization of equipment purchases from a specific vendor perspective.
I have and always will be a proponent of standardizing equipment purchases by vendor and model. Having the same patient monitors throughout a facility has many benefits; it eliminates the need for nurses to be trained on multiple devices, it allows for better pricing, and serviceability issues are easier to manage and solve. Today, nurses do not always work on the same unit. Nurses are often moved around where needed. When monitors are the same everywhere, a nurse can easily adapt and not have to worry about how to use the equipment. This reduces the potential for user errors and improves nursing satisfaction. From a pricing perspective, everyone knows the more volume you purchase the better the pricing. Vendors always sharpen their pencils when they know they will get all your business. Service issues are easier to manage too. From spare parts to training, having to only accommodate one type of monitor makes life simpler. As I think about some of the problems we have had lately, it would have been difficult to get the vendor to help us if they weren’t our partner for monitoring. The loyalty and cooperation that a vendor will provide when they know you have committed to only purchasing their equipment is many times better than those on which you only have a couple devices. Standardization makes sense and is the right thing to do, but there is a downside.
The downside to standardization is “you do not know what you do not know.” What I mean is that when you lock into a certain vendor and model you may be missing out. Competition is the greatest asset we have in this country; everyone is always trying to improve their products to be able to dethrone the market leader. That means if a competitor has “built a better mouse trap,” you may not even be aware of it. If you are like me, when a competing vendor wants to demo a new monitor that is not part of my standardization plan, I choose not to meet with or talk to them.
Really, who has the time to listen to someone’s product pitch when you know you won’t be purchasing it? However, after some reflection on this, I may be missing out on some knowledge. I have seen the market leaders’ product development become stagnant, for whatever reason. Meanwhile, the competition is working hard to develop a product that mitigates the weakness of the leader.
Vendors are very good at pointing out the other’s weaknesses, sometimes it is minor and sometimes it is not. It may not be something I even thought of as a weakness. I am learning that there is value in at least hearing what other vendors have to offer.
Today, we live in a world where advances in technology are coming at a feverish pace, this make the time right for a lot of big improvements in medical technology. Add in the necessity that equipment talk to the electronic medical record (EMR) and there are a lot of new developments. I experienced this firsthand when we trying to integrate our old monitoring standard to our EMR.
Due to the age and lack of advancement from the vendor, it was going to be a very long and expensive process to get our monitors to talk to the system. This forced us to make a change to our “standard” company and our new vendor can seamlessly dump into the EMR. In our crazy world of multiple priorities and emergencies it is hard to find time to listen to a vendor that, in our minds, has no chance of selling a product to us. However, I think in the future that I will be making time so I can learn what is new and question our “standardized” vendor when I see an advancement they do not have.
Jim Fedele, CBET, is the senior director of clinical engineering for UPMC. He magazines six Susquehanna Health hospitals. He has 30 years of HTM experience and has worked for multiple service organizations. Send questions or comments to Editor@MDPublishing.com.
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