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Medical Imaging Equipment Service: OEM vs. ISO

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Whoa! Did you just see that title? The big beefy OEMs are calling out the nimble scrapper ISOs. This could be quite the tussle. Ali vs. Liston! Coke vs. Pepsi! Jersey Shore vs. rational humanity! Buckle up for this one.

I work for an ISO, so I’ll need to take a deep breath, hold it, and gradually exhale all that bias. After all, the most trustworthy information sources are those that maintain objectivity, right?

OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and ISOs (independent service organizations) can both provide service support and repairs for imaging systems, but they are also very different in their approaches.

How about this: I’ll elaborate on some of the pros and cons of service from both and leave the deciding up to you? Deal?

OEM Service Pros

Large engineering staffs- GE, Siemens, and Philips are corporate juggernauts, period; not just in the medical imaging field. As a result of worldwide-mega-global status, they have resource pools so deep even Michael Phelps would need floaties.

New model training- Since the OEMs produce the equipment, they have the only technical stable trained on the very newest models. If you’ve bought the latest and greatest, there is a chance that only the OEM will know how to service it.

Proprietary software access- If you ever end up facing lost software or software corruption only OEM service can provide a replacement or an update, without purchasing new disks, as part of your contract.

OEM Service Cons

Training… to a point- The most common problems and the most common solutions are built into an OEM engineer’s repertoire, but when something unusual comes up, they’re more likely to dip into that deep resource pool and start throwing parts at a system until it works again. This approach gets the job done, but the costs can add up quickly.

Discontinuations- When a new generation of medical imaging equipment is released OEMs often discontinue service on an older model. This designation is called, “end of life” and helps goad hesitant customers into considering their next upgrade. New engineers hiring in will NOT be trained on end of life models. Some OEMs won’t even send an experienced engineer who is familiar with an older system if the service request is for a discontinued model.

Higher contract prices and hourly rates- OEM prices are substantially higher than the prices one can find in the third-party market. For example, Block Imaging service contracts are priced at an average of 20% below what an OEM would charge.

Call center-style service- Most of the time, you’ll be dealing with a new service coordinator each time you call. Sure, that person has the notes from previous calls to give them a basic rundown, but they lack the fuller context and understanding that comes with a consistent working relationship.

ISO Service Pros

Lower pricing- Smaller companies have smaller overhead costs and are driven to price their work competitively against OEM rates.

Engineer Experience- These companies are sometimes founded by or hire ex-OEM employees that understand the quirks of the older systems so many sites are trying to preserve. These groups also hire engineers from a broader variety of backgrounds. The ISO that has an expert on your GE room might also have an expert on your Philips room. Keep in mind that this is expertise gained in the field by finding problems and fixing them without the benefit of that seemingly endless flow of fresh parts.

Working on end of life systems- There are systems out there that seem like they’ve been scanning since the French Revolution. There’s probably not anybody out there that knows how to work on them, and forget finding parts! But, there are ISO solutions for any number of systems that have fallen by the wayside.

Personalized service- A smaller staff means that callers will be far more likely to talk to the same person or two people each time they call. This builds trust, rapport, and a firmer understanding of the condition of the equipment.

ISO Service Cons

Proprietary software access- ISOs will only have access to software that the OEM will sell. If software is needed it can be a pricy addition to your final invoice. ISOs can perform reloads, but only if the software is on hand.

Engineer availability- ISOs generally work to be flexible with their customers’ schedules, but with a smaller staff than an OEM, they can’t always respond with the same speed. 

New model training- ISOs do not get dibs on new model training like OEM engineers do. If your equipment is three years old or newer, you’ll have difficulty finding third-party engineers that are comfortable with it.              

The Imaging Equipment Service Decision

So there they are: the pros and the cons of shopping OEM service vs. ISO service. Does that help you pick your contender in this epic battle? 

Well, if you need a little more, consider this:

If your service goal is savings-related, ISOs are a great choice to save some money if you choose the correct one. Make sure you understand your ISO’s service capabilities before you make your decision.

If your goal is maximum uptime at any cost, you may find yourself more at home with an OEM service contract.

Imaging Equipment Service Options

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