Almost every hospital in the world requires a continuous supply of equipment and consumables that enable it's staff to deliver services to the clients. Procuring supplies is therefore a continuous process and some important factors that should be considered before making a purchase decision, are discussed below.
Identification of the Need
New health challenges continue to emerge in different parts of the world and therefore ‘Needs’ continue to change from time to time. Diseases like Ebola Virus Disease or Zika Virus disease may erupt in a specific part of the world and hence change the needs of health care sector, locally or globally. Similarly, a hospital or clinic may be willing to provide a new service, for which new equipment or supplies are desired. Another reason to procure equipment is up-gradation; since new technologies are more efficient and effective, clinical setups often need to update their equipment. Hence, if you are planning to buy new equipment, you should clearly identify your need and then analyze if it is justified or otherwise.
Suitability of the Equipment / Supplies
Purchasing a very high-tech apparatus that your local staff is incapable of using adequately or properly is of course not recommended. Medical equipment often requires maintenance or repairs, for which qualified personnel at the local level should be available. If repairing is impossible locally, the cost of running such equipment may exceed the profits; hence, a failure may result. Moreover, an important aspect is the environment in which medical equipment is used. E.g. equipment designed to function below 25 degrees Celsius is likely to fail in areas where temperatures are higher. An additional consideration should be the workload; e.g. a scanner designed for taking 30 images/day should not be used to get 100 images/day. Failing to prevent this from happening will reduce its life and in some cases warranty may be annulled.
Quality of the Equipment
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is the expected life of the equipment that you intend to purchase. Bear in mind that new technologies rapidly emerge and in such situations, older equipment may look old-fashioned and thus unacceptable by clients. In some cases, old-equipment may not affect your reputation; so, buying old items is acceptable.
The next important thing is ‘safety’ of devices. Low quality equipment or supplies are more likely to breach your safety lines; which is of course unacceptable. National, regional or international safety standards should be kept in mind when making a purchase.
Lastly, when you are making a purchase, it is always useful to check the packaging and labeling of your desired product. Packaging often contains details like ‘manufacturing date’, ‘expiry date’, ‘country of origin’ and ‘storage instructions’. Additional information may be provided by manufacturers in the form of symbols.
It is important to consider the material from which your selected equipment is made. Products made of aluminum have less weight and hence they can easily be carried or moved; however, aluminum easily bends and hence the equipment may lose its shape or contour if mishandled. Plastic products may have a great look, but they are less durable. Stainless steel products last longer, but they are expensive. Tungsten carbide is very durable, but its cost is high and unaffordable for many. Glass and plastic are also used in manufacturing; glass looks attractive but it is fragile. Plastic on the other hand is lightweight, but it cannot be re-sterilized in most cases. An additional consideration is ‘rusting’ of products; equipment that rusts easily is difficult to clean. Epoxy or polyester coating may reduce this problem.
Cost of Equipment / Supplies
As a general rule, expensive equipment often requires less maintenance and repairing than its cheaper counterpart. Although this may not be true in every case; this is generally the situation. A simple example in this regard is that of surgical gloves. Although cheaper surgical gloves may be bought at 1/10th the price of expensive gloves; they may rupture when a surgeon attempts to wear them, and hence result in increased consumption. Moreover, the surgeon may be exposed to deadly infections, if his/her gloves rupture while performing surgical procedures. It often happens that companies sell their near-expiry products at much lower prices. If you are planning to purchase such products, make sure you align your consumption with the expiry date.
When considering the cost of equipment, other related costs should also be kept in mind. These include, but are not limited to, customs or import tax/duty, transportation costs, insurance costs, installation costs, running costs and the money required to train your facility’s staff.
When the equipment starts functioning, many additional costs may surface. These include maintenance and repair costs, purchase of spare parts, accessories and supplies that are consumed as part of the functioning (e.g. needles, dyes etc) and the costs related to waste disposal.
Source of Equipment / Supplies
When sourcing medical equipment from foreign manufacturers, it is important to realize that different countries have different manufacturing standards. Hence, it is important to source your equipment or supplies from reputable and licensed manufacturers. Manufacturers use difference performance and safety standards worldwide; hence the manufacturer should be asked about the standards that are used as the guiding principles for manufacturing products.
An additional aspect is to differentiate between the ‘original’ and the ‘copied’ equipment. Although ‘copies’ are inexpensive, they are poorly manufactured and can be detrimental to your clients’ health.
If you are planning to import your equipment, make sure your supplier provides the documents that are required for customs clearance etc.