In the mid-1980s, among the companies selling and servicing medical equipment in the southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey areas, Brandywine Imaging, Garden State Imaging (GSI), Radiology Imaging Services, and Deccaid Services had something special. The companies weren't competitors, exactly -- they were more like cousins. Being so close physically, and having similar goals, it was only a matter of time before, as Brandywine's Ron Laird says, a "handshake deal" established what was to become the Association of Medical Service Providers (AMSP). Today, the AMSP has 23 members in 15 states, and remains committed to advancing their common interests. From group purchasing contracts to technical support to advertising and networking, the AMSP is helping its members remain viable in an increasingly challenging business environment.
Progress and support
A lot has changed since 1986, when the AMSP was formally established. Perhaps most prominent is the emergence of new technologies -- multi-slice CT scanners, or the recently unveiled PET/MRI. The increasing prominence of healthcare information technology (HIT) has also posed problems. As GSI's Ed Ravenkamp says, "Without the AMSP, it would be extremely difficult to get through the minefield of software keys and different products coming out on the market. There isn't a product not locked up." The AMSP allows its members to share knowledge of these details, increasing the impact of new software on efficiency.
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The replacement of film with digital has been of particular concern with some AMSP members. Brandywine used to do almost half of its business in film, but with the rise of direct radiography (DR), Ron Laird finds that the lack of consumables hurts his bottom line. As part of the solution to this problem, the AMSP has entered into negotiations with a Taiwan company to provide its members with DR equipment. According to Sal Aidone
of Deccaid Services, Inc., the company's amorphous selenium arrays are less than half the cost of comparable American equipment. Also, Aidone says, they are willing to retrofit X-ray machines already in use.
Fighting the big boys
The relationship between independent service organizations (ISOs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) has always been a contentious one. As Tim Wright of Virtual Medical Sales, Inc. says, "OEMs would rather we didn't exist because they would sell more equipment if we weren't here." There is competition for service contracts as well, but Aidone thinks that the instinct toward self-preservation often leads hospital technologists to go to OEMs for support. "They think, 'nobody can fire me if I call GE.'" Aidone thinks this goes against the technologists' best interests, as the OEMs will often bill the hospital for the work of three engineers while an ISO might only use one.