From the May 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Robert J. Kerwin
The renowned New York Times columnist and bestselling author of “Thank You for Being Late”, Thomas Friedman, notes that we may be living through one of the greatest inflection points in history. “The three largest forces on the planet – technology, globalization and climate change – are all accelerating at once.”
In light of these accelerating forces, many things need to be reevaluated. For IAMERS, and other imaging equipment stakeholders, Friedman’s observation raises the question: Can the relationship between independent servicers and manufacturers be reimagined and more mutually beneficial in the modern era?
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The current situation needs to be improved, and the argument that independent and in-house servicing practices are unsafe has been disproven. ECRI research has noted that servicing has been a contributing factor in less than .005 percent of incidences of maintenance-related failures.
Figuring out how to encourage market competition, while also ensuring patient safety and stronger communication across imaging stakeholders, is in the best interest of the healthcare ecosystem.
Hospitals need choices
If future manufacturer cloud-based platforms or government legislation succeeds in excluding independent and in-house teams from servicing, what happens to the ability of a hospital to choose servicers for the equipment it owns? Will there be an escalation of healthcare costs for rural and regional America? Will hospitals be able to afford to pay reported rates in some cases of almost $600 per hour with a four-hour minimum for service calls?
The cost saving that comes from market competition should not be understated when looking at hospital finances. The industry is aware of recent court and regulatory actions in both the U.S. and Europe to examine whether possible restraints of trade are occurring. Standard settings practices could possibly be scrutinized to the extent the standards exclude independent and in-house servicers. According to the FTC, trade associations are not themselves exempted from scrutiny to the extent they are determined not to be at least competitively neutral.
So how do we move forward in a way that encourages market competition and is satisfactory to all parties?
Cooperation with providing information
Some independent sellers and servicers (including in-house teams) experience constant stress over delays or refusals by equipment manufacturers to provide service keys, passwords, manuals and training. If patient safety is the top concern, then it seems that sharing this information with third-party service entities would be a way to help enhance it.