From large health systems to small, private practices, the cost of purchasing new, off-the-shelf medical equipment has steadily increased. In response, many healthcare providers are looking to buy refurbished medical equipment as a way of meeting their patient care needs and lower their costs. In the pursuit of cost savings, it is important to understand the secondary market for medical equipment.
There are two common terms to describe equipment on the secondary equipment market: refurbished and used. Refurbished medical equipment offers distinct advantages over used equipment as these units undergo a process to ensure they work in accordance to the specifications set forth by the manufacturer. The extent of refurbishment will vary from machine to machine and from supplier to supplier, but in general, the process will include a functional reconditioning and some level of cosmetic maintenance.
Used equipment, in contrast, tends to be sold “as-is” and it is on the buyer to determine if the item’s current condition is acceptable. The upside to purchasing used is the price. This equipment is available at the absolute lowest price because there are no additional costs added to the sale. For most providers, the added benefits of the refurbishment process are more valuable than the savings received when buying used and this is reflected in the growth of the refurbished market.
The refurbished medical equipment market continues to grow rapidly. How fast exactly? According to one study, the global refurbished medical equipment market reached $6.47 Billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $13.11 Billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 12.5 % between 2017 and 2022.
Below we’ll pose four additional questions to ask when looking at refurbished equipment.
What facility will be doing the work? Are they ISO 13485 certified?
ISO 13485 is an international standard that sets out the requirements for a quality management system specific to the medical device industry. It reflects a strong commitment to continual improvement and gives customers confidence in purchasing safe and effective products. The standard is broad and covers the design, production, installation and servicing of medical devices and related services. An ISO 13485 certified facility helps to ensure medical device repairs are carried out by trained and qualified personnel, performing appropriate calibration and testing.
What type of refurbishment will be performed? Cosmetic, functional or full refurbishment?
Cosmetic refurbishment refers to the process of making a piece of equipment appear new. The equipment panels may be painted, new branding and decals placed on the machine, and a thorough cleaning of all surfaces complete the unit’s aesthetics. While items that have undergone cosmetic refurbishment may show well, the most important part of the equipment, its functionality, remains untouched.
Functional refurbishment ensures the machine operates according to OEM specifications. System testing and a review of the machine’s components are the foundation of this process. Parts and components that require replacement are replaced and a final system test and calibration is performed to verify the equipment functions according to the specifications set forth by the manufacturer.
Full refurbishment is the combination of cosmetic and functional processes. Fully refurbished units will appear and operate like new.
Is warranty/prepaid maintenance available?
Routine preventative maintenance and care for your equipment can minimize unexpected downtime. New equipment includes a one-year limited warranty as an industry norm. With refurbished equipment, the warranty is treated as a separate line item, enabling you to choose the option that best fits your needs. In most cases, refurbished equipment will qualify for a service contract with the equipment supplier, the OEM, or third-party service provider.
Can I visit the refurbishing facility and inspect the refurbished system prior to shipping?
A reputable medical equipment supplier should be happy to accommodate you and have you travel to their facility to inspect a refurbished system. This is a key part to ensuring that your equipment is as you expect, as well as offering you a chance to familiarize yourself with how the piece of equipment operates. This is a great opportunity to ask any other questions you have prior to taking delivery. If the system you are purchasing is an upgrade over an existing system, then additional training may be required for technicians and staff. It is also an opportunity to discuss any maintenance contracts, ask about the warranty, as well as the logistics of the actual installation process.
- The refurbished market for medical equipment continues to grow.
- Look for an ISO 13485 certified facility to ensure refurbishment is performed by qualified technicians using genuine parts.
- Verify the level of refurbishment. Cosmetic refurbishment means equipment will look great from the outside but offer no insight into its mechanical state. Fully reconditioning the equipment ensures a machine looks and operates as good as new.
- Prepaid service contracts can extend the life of a piece of equipment by ensuring routine service is performed.
- For larger purchases like a CT scanner or MRI machine, consider an on-site equipment inspection prior to delivery.