How COVID-19 led to OEM service advancements

by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | August 09, 2021
Parts And Service
From the August 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Addressing the backlog
As patients pushed off screening exams during the pandemic, imaging centers braced for a flood of appointments. Service providers had to address service needs accordingly.

“We had a slow period for applications training requests just after the pandemic restrictions were easing up,” said Mel Travers, applications manager for MR at Hitachi Healthcare Americas. “Over the past two to four months after customer sites had taken care of their backlog of patients, a big wave of on-site applications requests had come in.”

Remote monitoring was key to handling the backlog. Customers of Canon Medical Systems used InnerVision Plus, which allows engineers to remotely troubleshoot imaging systems, to help catch problems before they affect performance.

“In many cases we were able to effectively support our customers with our remote services,” said Hearn of Canon Medical. “We continued to support our customers remotely by providing 24/7 access to specialists to help with both engineering operations or clinical queries or issues. These experts helped secure our customers’ workflow with live person interaction (and) real-time resolution during patient studies using (a) remote user-interface. Internal studies showed that in some modalities our real-time problem resolution ranks above 90%.”

Brown, of GE Healthcare, said the backlog of exams made improving throughput and avoiding downtime even more important. The company also responded to the demand for a need for more flexible hours with service support.

McCallum of Siemens Healthineers noted that the company and its technology can help customers manage their workflow and optimize protocols to reduce scan time and better handle a backlog.

“How a room is laid out, how clinicians move around the patient, all that affects workflow,” McCallum said.

Links in the supply chain
Supply chains continue to be challenged, but some companies employed specific strategies to get through the rough patches brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canon Medical officials say its parts supply and inventories have been maintained throughout the pandemic and, like consumers, healthcare providers have gotten used to online shopping. The company recently launched a new e-commerce website called Marketplace, which allows customers to explore the company’s parts inventory at their convenience and take advantage of special online pricing.

“Very early in the pandemic, our company decided to increase inventory stocking levels in anticipation of potential supply chain issues,” Hearn said. “During the pandemic, a lot of us experienced some sort of lock-down work scenario. Also, our customers often had to work from a virtual office and regular work hours no longer determined rigid business hours. As a result, customers may browse for parts any time of the day, educating themselves about their options and pricing. … Moving forward, customers will likely continue to seek the convenience of online parts shopping, and don’t want to be restricted to just parts.”

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