This report originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of DOTmed Business News
When it comes to getting hi-tech (and highly valuable) machines into a decidedly low-tech area, you tend to hear helpful comments like, "Are you crazy?" Or, "You must be kidding." And the show-stopper, "Do they have modern health care there?" These responses are usually followed by, "Can you make it work?" "How are you going to get paid?" "Will everything make it there in one piece?" And the encouraging, "You must believe in miracles."
MRI in controlled situations is technical and precise. All the teams - sales, de-installation, crating and rigging, pre installation testing, site planning , RF shielding, shipping, warehousing (if applicable), installation, calibration, and general construction - must work together if the machine is going to meet performance expectations.
If that sounds daunting, I probably shouldn't mention the planning for the change in the power grid, customs inspectors that open everything and aren't always knowledgeable or bumpy roads that make it not only difficult to get the MRI to the site in top form, but also make it likely you'll need to utilize the machine yourself to figure out what has been shaken loose from your own body Finish the trials and tribulations by dealing with bankers who are unlikely to give you the money promised unless it's a stipulation in their will and you may start to get a taste of what it's like. But an MRI is a big risk with a big potential payoff.
MRI sales are difficult because the reality is that one mistake, a shim tray miscounted, an emergency light incorrectly installed, a connection to building steel . . . any one of 100 items to check can cause big problems. If you're wrong, then the image quality is compromised. If you don't fix the problem or don't know how to fix the problem, your mistake grows. If you sell an MRI as-is, where-is, without inspection or staging from a warehouse in the United States to a rural South American facility, it's not just a bad idea. In my mind, it's a crime. Even if you have sold the system for $20,000 (about the price of a good new coil), it still doesn't justify providing inferior product or service. "Getting what you pay for" is shouldn't replace "the customer is always right." At the end of the day, you still have to ship it, shield it, and install it correctly, leaving the customer happy - or you will develop a reputation and it won't be a good one.
Think about it, if it were easy everyone would do it. So here's where you're wondering why you, or anyone in his or her right mind would want to go through these troubles. The answers are much simpler than the steps required to make it happen. Because they need it, you have it and it's good business. It's the next big market - a really, really big market. It's where everything used is going anyway. If you don't sell it, someone else will. The sales are easy too. Actually, reverse that. The sales are too easy. If it were just an X-ray or a CT scanner, or another plug-and-play system it would be a quick sale and you would be sailing into the sunset. Those that do go through the trouble and do things correctly love the challenge. Everyone remembers the hard installations no one else would even bid on because they were next to impossible or in a far away land. Bringing the world's most difficult-to-install machine to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Mexico or even a rural part of the United States gives you an inner feeling of accomplishment. You feel good delivering health care to people who need it.