Kenneth Maddock: We Can Change the Supportability World—without Waging War

It’s time to rally the troops! Call out the guard, grab your weapons, and hide the women and children. We are going to war! Those price-gouging, profiteering manufacturers have to be taken down! We will tolerate these high prices on parts and services no longer! A bit too strident? How about, we have to put laws into place that will force manufacturers to see the light and give us access to all medical equipment parts at low, low prices! Well, that is an option, but in my opinion not a good one.

So to what does the rhetoric above refer? Access to parts and service information on medical equipment. For years, access to reasonably priced parts and service information to support repair on medical equipment has been a major concern. That concern has been growing because many manufacturers see service as a way to support their margins as escalating healthcare costs shrink profits on medical equipment sales. And yes, some manufacturers do go overboard in their attempts to make money on service. But based on many discussions with manufacturer personnel, I believe they also have legitimate concerns about safety. The reality is that our field is not great at taking a consistent approach to service and service processes, including who can service equipment and how they do so. While I have no doubt that you, the person reading this blog post, is 100% qualified to repair all medical equipment, the reality is that we all know techs who we would not trust to repair equipment to use on loved ones. So in my mind, manufacturer concerns are legitimatebut not insurmountable.

So what is the right way to deal with this concern? We need to engage manufacturers in calm, reasonable discussions on how we can identify solutions that benefit both parties. Yes, negotiate. The reality is that while taking a legal approach may work, it could very well damage the working relationship and negatively impact our ability to work as a team with manufacturers. The increasing complexity of medical devices and systems requires us to work with manufacturers, not against them.

To this end, AAMI will host a supportability forum on Nov. 2-3, inviting people who can represent all parties affected by this issue. I am optimistic that these discussions will result in the identification of key issues and lead to a plan to address these issues moving forward. AAMI’s Supportability Task Force has focused on coming up with a plan that would provide manufacturers an incentive to support the effective, economical, and safe service of medical equipment by healthcare technology management professionals. This summit is designed to get more people involved in this effort.

So while this isn’t a war, it is a movement. If you have thoughts and ideas you would like to share, please take advantage of the many social media avenues AAMI provides to do so. With your help, we can change the world!

Kenneth Maddock is a longtime healthcare technology management executive and AAMI Board member.

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