In today’s everchanging healthcare landscape, the need to reconcile diminishing budgets with improving care presents a unique challenge to healthcare providers. One “silver bullet” approach, that could solve both issues, requires healthcare equipment purchasers to adopt a more strategic process towards capital equipment planning. Here are 15 tips to help make smarter purchases:
- Smart financing. Despite the added costs associated with loans and leases, equipment suppliers might be preferable to an all-cash transaction when it comes to certain equipment. Financing won’t cut into your working capital the way a lump-sum payment would, providing flexibility for other expenditures such as new innovations that could make your equipment obsolete. By financing costs over time, you can record equipment as an asset to be expensed in future periods. This capitalization tends to be more inclusive of associated costs, such as the logistics of getting the purchased equipment to your facility.
- Think big and small. During the planning and purchasing process, it is easy to focus on the large manufacturers, the ‘household names’ of healthcare purchasing. While these large manufacturers are important, don’t forget about the smaller manufacturers, who often sell through a distributor or another party because of their smaller size. Sometimes the small and medium-sized manufacturers get passed over for a direct contract with a larger company, but it can be advantageous to explore all the options. You might find that consolidating with multiple smaller companies brings more competitive pricing and other surprising benefits that the big companies don’t offer with direct contracts.
- Go for the warranty. Manufacturers and equipment vendors often offer maintenance service and warranty contracts for their products. Give those contracts a close read and consider the financial risks of going without those contracts in the event of something going wrong with the equipment. You might also talk to your in-house or contracted biomed group to see if they can handle the warranty work at a more competitive rate.
- Plan for space and development. Use collaborative brainstorming with design experts, contractors, and healthcare personnel to determine the best uses of all space in the facility, whether it’s a patient room, a clinical laboratory or the waiting area. Efficient spaces will most likely enhance patient satisfaction, utilization and revenues.
- Collaborate with an equipment
planner. Just as a patient would go to a doctor when he or she is sick, purchasing managers are wise to go to a medical equipment planner when sourcing new products. Professional planning and logistics companies have the knowledge and experience to help evaluate your organization’s needs and ensure that everything complies with local regulations.
- Anticipate total cost of ownership. Similar to collaborating with an equipment planner, do your research and understand the associated costs of your equipment. Beyond the purchase price, things to look for include order-processing costs, shipping costs, special handling costs, assembly and installation costs and final cleanup costs. Understanding all the costs associated with the purchase makes the economic choice much clearer.
- Understand warehousing and
logistics. Can your equipment be assembled ahead of time? Where is it stored before shipping? Do you have adequate warehouse space to store the equipment for 30 to 60 days? Where will it be shipping from? Is it coming via ground, sea or air? These logistics components are key to the equipment pricing strategy so the equipment purchaser would do well to understand them. Look for a price that reflects the most common-sense warehousing and logistics strategy for the product you are purchasing.
- Delivery options. Beyond the logistics of your purchase, find a delivery service that offers direct-to-site shipping with an excellent track record. A good partner will specialize in medical equipment delivery, ensure everything is properly labeled and have a fully equipped receiving team onsite to bring all products to the desired spot within the end-room — in the least time-consuming manner.
- Anticipate shipping and receiving. Work closely with your vendor to avoid early arrivals of your equipment, and inform the vendor in real time if there are any delays or accelerations in your schedule that could affect the planned arrival time. This will prevent potential damage and unnecessary costs associated with storing the equipment. Equipment that is delivered too late can interrupt your patient care and cause expensive workflow delays.
- Checking regulations. During the planning process, it is critical to identify all the local, state and federal regulations that will apply to your purchases. Every healthcare-oriented facility is subject to a variety of regulations from building and zoning codes to industry and environmental standards. Understanding these parameters upfront will save time and money down the road.
- Prevent patient/workflow interruptions. Try to time your delivery and set-up of all medical equipment so they do not disturb any patients or operations at the facility. Ideally, deliveries and installations will be done during the quietest hours of the day.
- Involve the appropriate departments. Equipment purchases have many moving parts and collaboration is the key to getting them in sync. Just like the designers are consulted to help optimize space, those who will be regularly interacting with the new equipment should be consulted during all stages of the capital equipment procurement process. This will help you avoid overpaying for unneeded features or functions and secure valuable feedback for future options.
- Understand associated supply costs. Additional supply costs for equipment can creep up. Research and understand what additional disposable or accessory supplies the equipment needs to operate as desired by the department using it. Factor this cost analysis into your total cost of ownership to maximize the value of your equipment purchase.
- Inspect and test before ownership transfer. Make sure your biomedical engineering technicians inspect the equipment before finalizing the transaction. At the very least, an electrical safety inspection and operations test should be conducted before the installation and final sign-off.
- Understand the installation process. Each piece of medical equipment is different and may require different installation tactics which can wrack up costs if you are not careful. Wall mounting, electrical supply, plumbing and general handling are all aspects of installation costs that can differ from vendor to vendor, distributor to distributor. Do your research and understand what the installation process will entail.
A smarter approach to capital equipment purchases could yield an array of efficiencies — maybe enough to balance your long-term budgets, and certainly enough to provide a better patient experience. Consider all 15 tips and decide if your organization can afford not to make these investments.