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Cost Containment Corner - Selecting an OEM service provider: 3 crucial factors

August 19, 2015
Rob Stevens
From the August 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Today’s hospitals are held to higher standards than ever before. Changing regulations in the health care space are driving scrutiny on asset utilization and cost savings. At the same time, patient satisfaction ratings hold more weight than ever. In order to survive in the new health care landscape, hospitals just take extra care when selecting service providers. Original equipment manufacturer service providers are valuable assets to hospitals today, and can often serve as true partners. But in order for the partnership to truly benefit a hospital, they must be selected carefully. Whatever a hospital’s vetting process might be, I believe there are three important factors hospitals should consider before signing a contract:

1. People
An OEM service provider should have a strong bench of biomedical and field service engineers accessible to the hospital. Service engineers need to be readily accessible for both remote and on-site services, and should have the knowledge, tools and training necessary to stay current with the latest equipment. Ongoing education for engineers can take many forms, but the most valuable OEM provider will offer its technicians some type of training academy, augmented with computer-based courses and seminars in the field. Most OEM providers will give hospitals a behind-the-scenes look at where training or remote support takes place. Visualizing the resources that are made available to the OEM’s staff can help determine whether the provider is taking care of its people and providing the necessary training. Additionally, hospitals should verify that the OEM provider is hiring a skilled staff. In my experience, graduates from biomedical engineering programs, ex-military engineers, or those with industry experience generally make the best recruits.

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In addition to technical abilities, strong customer service skills are a hallmark of the best OEM providers on the market today. Decision making from an engineering standpoint should be customer-centric. For example, an experienced engineer may choose to combine corrective maintenance with an upcoming preventive maintenance event in order to minimize downtime for the hospital. Meeting the hospital’s objectives proactively is paramount to good customer service. OEM service providers should provide good customer service at all levels of the organization. From interactions with field service engineers to partnership reviews with regional managers and executives, relationships are an important piece to business. Hospitals can refer to independent reviews of performance rankings and customer service rankings to better understand which providers have the best track records. IMV ServiceTrak is a good place to start researching potential health care service partners.

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