Selecting new medical equipment can be a difficult process for many hospitals. There are multiple departments involved and each feels that their needs must be satisfied. In order to keep ownership costs at a minimum, the purchasing department needs to know that they can get good pricing on the product and on any associated supplies such as IV tubing, cassettes and etc. Biomedical departments want to be certain that the equipment is safe, operates reliably, can be maintained easily, and that they will have access to repair manuals and replacement parts. While the needs of the purchasing and biomedical departments are important, the most important part of any equipment selection process must be the input from the physicians and nurses who will be using the product on a daily basis to help improve patient care.
In any selection process, we must give the highest priority to the needs of the physicians and nurses because having the right equipment is necessary to assure the best possible patient outcomes. Also, if the product does not meet their clinical needs, it is unlikely to be used and under those circumstances, the purchase is a waste of a hospital’s scarce financial resources. Sometimes the biggest problem with heavy involvement of clinicians in the process is that, all too often, salespeople get involved and work very hard to convince clinicians that theirs is the only product they should buy. Consequently, a person with well developed sales skills may inject a bias that causes clinicians to demand products that are not truly beneficial to their patients’ needs.
The best way to keep salespeople from influencing decisions is to develop an equipment selection process that is free of any bias. This can be done by first having your clinicians identify the ideal characteristics of the device or devices they want to buy. You can do this by having your department develop a set of typical characteristics for the device in question. For example: if you are looking for infusion pumps, list out all of the characteristics of a pump; things like accuracy, resolution of flow, min/max flow rates, battery life, alarms, KVO rates and etc. When you have all of these characteristics listed, hold a meeting with all of the involved clinicians and have them decide collectively on the details for each characteristic. For example; accuracy of 2%, a pump flow rate of .5 – 500 ml/ hour, and battery life of 4 hours. Once you have all of this data, you can compare the needs they have outlined against the specifications of the various devices on the market and then have the clinicians evaluate only those devices that meet their specifications.
By using this type of method, you will you will have removed the bias of salespeople from the process and evaluate only those devices that truly meet your clinical needs. You also will have demonstrated how your leadership and your input can improve equipment selection by assuring that your hospital follows a logical process that is free of outside sales interference and designed to meet the specific needs of the involved clinicians
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