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Weighing risk tolerance against independent MR service options

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | February 28, 2024
MRI Parts And Service
A good MR scanner parts supplier should have a test base and technical expertise to ensure parts meet quality standards. (Photo courtesy of DirectMed Imaging)
When customizing an MR service contract, providers always take on some level of risk; the level and type of risk will depend on the facility. For instance, a hospital with its own spare parts warehouse might select a contract including labor and preventive maintenance but excluding parts replacement.

Risk tolerance comes down to several factors, including the age of the provider’s MR scanners, access to labor and parts, and in-house maintenance expertise. These variables, and others, should be accounted for in the search for a service agreement that covers everything necessary, while leaving out everything the provider can take care of on their own.

While a brand-new scanner will typically be serviced by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), an independent service provider (ISO) may offer cost advantages for MR systems that have been on the market for a few years. Additionally, an ISO may be a better option for providers depending on service flexibility, location, MR fleet utilization rates, the types of procedures performed with scanners, and more. HCB News sat down with four ISOs to discuss how hospitals and other providers can assess their risk tolerance, which is key to creating a cost-effective MR service strategy.
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Knowing what MR service entails
Whether an imaging provider wants to take on high or low risk, Donald McCormack Sr., CEO of Fontana, California-based ISO Southwest Medical Resources, says any MR service contract should include some form of magnet coverage so quenches, helium loss, or wear to cold heads and compressors falls on the service provider and not them. “That's the highest expense associated with the service contract and the willingness to break that out and give them coverage, at the very least in a separate plan, is important,” he told HCB News.

Even providers with very high tolerance should have a preventive maintenance agreement in place to “maintain accreditation compliance and guarantee response time,” says McCormack, whose company specializes in GE HealthCare MR, CT, and PET/CT systems, and has a warehouse of over 20,000 replacement parts for the systems it services. Remote diagnostics and environmental monitoring can be valuable components of a PM contract.

“In the past, MR equipment that was older than five years was nearly never kept,” McCormack says. “Now, we have hospitals that have equipment that is 15 years old and are considering keeping and upgrading it. So, aftermarket upgrades in the secondary market have become something that customers understand the value of.”

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