Service is only one piece of the overall TCO. Here are five other less obvious categories of soft costs associated with the TCO of imaging equipment:
1. Training and education
How closely a vendor partners with a hospital after delivering the imaging equipment can make a significant difference to the TCO. Users need to be trained to develop the necessary expertise, and if the vendor does not offer a robust educational program, the hospital will be absorbing those costs itself. Equipment is more valuable if its users have a high level of operational confidence. Further savings can be realized if those users can also do some light service troubleshooting with it on their own.
What should this level of training entail? It must be multi-channel, including onsite and online modules, in order to promote understanding through in-person communication and provide access to the information any time it is needed. The best vendors in this area have invested in training portals that feature how-to videos; application and use case advice; webinars and workshops for introducing new techniques; and other formats including static reference tools for answering users’ questions that build their confidence with the equipment. Such resources can be calculated as a major value-add for the hospital, and one that reduces the TCO.
This is a relatively recent consideration within the TCO, as the more traditional forms of imaging technologies did not require (or permit) software upgrades. To take a contemporary example, today’s portable ultrasound equipment often comes with flexible platforms and software feature sets that can be updated and upgraded remotely. This ability obviously helps a hospital avoid a host of other soft costs by decreasing the length of time associated with offsite repairs.
Along with the obvious benefits, purchasers interested in remote upgrade capabilities must also take into consideration the security angle: how will the vendor help the hospital or clinic protect data during an upgrade? Hospitals need to find vendor partners who have invested in the essential architecture and measures necessary to deliver upgrades without increasing the hospital’s vulnerability to data breaches.
3. Downtime and redundancy
Equipment failure, equipment downtime, and the downstream costs associated with each are hard to predict but significant in terms of TCO. Getting replacement equipment quickly, or even having loaner equipment on site, is one way to prevent the damage resulting from disruptions to patient care, canceled appointments and postponed procedures, and delays in care. (These delays can also increase a patient’s length of stay (LOS) or even the LOS for an entire cohort of patients, which can in turn affect performance metrics and lead to penalties for the hospital.) In terms of the ultrasound example, equipment failure can lead to a substitution of an imaging modality that is both more expensive and uses more radiation. Less quantifiable but no less significant is the burden placed on staff when equipment fails or is unavailable.