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The Balancing Act of Repairing or Replacing Medical Equipment

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A common problem that all healthcare facilities face is how to balance the decision to replace or repair vital medical instruments and equipment. This task is a difficult one, as there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this dilemma. There are many factors to consider—patient safety, the age of the equipment, and cost to service, repair, or replace. Another factor to consider is the evolution of technology and the demand for the newest equipment and tools.

Making the right decision for your facility is going to be a delicate balancing act. Think about the future of your facility, taking into consideration competing interest and costs. When it comes to purchasing or repairing medical equipment, the risks will compete with the associated rewards.

Another important aspect to consider is how long the equipment can be maintained in a safe and reliable operating condition. Consider both preventive and corrective maintenance that can be used to help prolong the life of the equipment. Each organization can conduct their own preventive maintenance by combining the manufacturer’s recommendations with their own experience using the equipment. Another option is to contract out equipment maintenance to a service provider.

Another important aspect to take into consideration is the actual type of equipment and how often it gets used. For example, specialty devices might not get used as often as other equipment, resulting in less wear and tear. But, when they do need repairs, specialty equipment will generally cost more to repair than equipment used more frequently.

When Is It Impractical to Repair?

Despite all your best efforts, there will come a time when repairing older equipment is not feasible. Ultimately, the decision is going to vary from organization to organization, but here are a few instances where it is going to be impractical to continue to repair equipment.

  • Replacement Parts are Not Available. When newer versions of a piece of equipment are introduced, the manufacturer will slowly begin to phase out older models. This means that they will eventually stop producing replacement parts; often no longer offering support for older equipment.
  • Service Cost Rise Dramatically. When manufacturers stop making replacement parts for their older equipment, the cost to service and repair older models will often rise dramatically.
  • Patient Care is Disrupted. When a piece of equipment requires frequent repairs, it creates a barrier to providing quality care to patients. This can sometimes cause a ripple effect, if patients are no longer able to receive quality care, they may choose to receive their healthcare needs elsewhere.
  • Equipment Racks Up a High Number of Failures. Occasionally when you purchase a piece of equipment, you end up with a lemon. And it may make more sense to replace it than make continual repairs. You can often check with other markets, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to see if they have released a warning regarding a particular piece of equipment. When you look at it from a liability standpoint, it might be in your best interest to either return or dispose of that particular piece of equipment and purchase something new.
  • Patients Value Latest Innovations. Technology is constantly evolving and changing, these advancements can reduce the feasibility of making repairs to some equipment. If your facility holds a reputation for being cutting edge, you’ll want to consider replacing certain equipment before its standard end of life.
  • Not Up to Standard. In some instances, you may need to replace equipment as a result of evolving standards of care. When this happens, some older equipment may no longer meet the benchmark for technical excellence.

Each facility should have a plan in place for equipment replacement. This plan will factor in the cost-benefit analysis of repairing or replacing equipment to meet the facilities needs. Ensuring that your medical instruments and equipment are safe and working efficiently is going to be a top priority to ensure that patients are receiving the care they deserve. If your equipment isn’t meeting the mark, it might be time to replace it with something that will.