The Pros and Cons of Buying Pre-Owned Biomedical Equipment
Modern healthcare delivery and advanced medical technology go hand in hand. But acquiring biomedical assets can put purchasers in the crosshairs of "must-haves" and "must-nots" coming from many different stakeholders. Decision-makers must balance factors such as escalating inventory demands, the expectation that hospitals "keep up" with the latest biomedical technology, lean capital budgets, and the need to secure real-world ROI.
And don't forget care delivery, clinical outcomes, and above all else, patient safety.
Pre-owned medical equipment sales continue to expand in response to the increasing demand for safe, effective machines on hospital floors. The refurbished medical device market, valued at around $11.63 billion in 2022, is expected to reach $20.15 billion by 2026.
Despite their status as pre-owned, these biomedical devices can provide the same level of quality and safety as new machines. Let’s explore the different categories:
Used medical devices
Used medical devices frequently arrive on the market when hospitals and health centers liquidate capital equipment. The facility might need to sell because it's shutting down, moving locations, or upgrading its fleet. The quality of a used medical device depends on its age, the degree of past usage, level of maintenance, previous repairs, and other elements in the device history.
Refurbished medical devices
According to the FDA, a refurbished medical device has been restored to the OEM's original specifications. Typically, the equipment undergoes refurbishment after the initial owner returns a defective device. Restoration of a gently used device to "brand new" specifications also qualifies as refurbishing.
Refurbishing may include replacing parts, conducting repairs, and upgrading software. A refurbished device must work as well and as safely as the manufacturer intended it should work when new. Independent businesses and OEM partner companies can refurbish machines. "Certified Refurbished" equipment has been restored, inspected, and tested by the OEM itself.
How to make an informed decision about pre-owned medical devices
For smaller hospitals and healthcare organizations, pre-owned medical device investments can help increase or upgrade the facility's technology profile while operating on a streamlined budget. However, purchasing pre-owned medical assets can sometimes involve a trade-off between cost-effectiveness and buyer protection and confidence.
Just like brand new devices purchased from the OEM, the choice to buy pre-owned medical technology can affect the quality of healthcare delivery. Because patient lives are ultimately at stake, purchasing used biomedical assets requires careful consideration.
Read on to learn about some of the benefits and risks to consider when buying pre-owned equipment.
Informed buyers working with ethical sellers that value transparency yield the most mutually beneficial pre-owned equipment transactions. Under these circumstances, benefits can include:
Lower capital equipment costs
The primary appeal of used or refurbished medical equipment lies in a price that's substantially lower than cost of purchasing new medical devices. Depending on the device, the choice to buy used can make a difference of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Take care, however, not to focus on the lower sticker price above everything else. Many factors contribute to the comprehensive financial impact and cost-of-service ratio (COSR) of previously owned medical equipment.
Affordable technology upgrades
Working with a reliable refurbished equipment vendor is an opportunity to acquire leading-edge biomedical technology at much lower prices.
Upgrading device fleets has many benefits, such as:
- Improving patient care
- Reducing medication errors
- Decreasing asset downtimes
- Avoiding recalls
- Boosting cybersecurity
In addition, upgrades can enhance the hospital's reputation. A facility that uses advanced biomedical technology can attract–and better serve–more patients.
- More environmentally friendly
The national hospital facilities market had a value of nearly $1,319 trillion in 2021 and should reach $2373 trillion by 2030. An industry of that size also generates an enormous amount of waste: 5.9 million tons or more each year.
Discarded medical devices frequently become electronic waste, usually overseas in developing countries. E-waste can leak toxins into the ground, contaminating soil and water, and affecting vegetation and the local ecosystem. Buying used instead of new helps reduce the number of devices that end up in landfills.
Buyers should know that pre-owned biomedical assets do come with potential drawbacks, such as:
A complex buying process
Acquiring used biomedical equipment typically takes extra time and effort compared to buying new devices from the OEM. In addition to considering the financial picture, purchasers must conduct rigorous vetting of the seller and the products in question.
Choosing to work with one of the top players in the refurbished medical device market could make vetting easier. Keep in mind, however, that the larger companies may not always have the lowest prices. Individual sellers sometimes price their products very competitively.
Medical equipment marketplaces such as DOTmed perform vetting on sellers who use their service–but the purchaser should still ask plenty of questions and request documentation from the individual seller. Buying directly from another facility can also be a safe option, provided there's adequate documentation of all device histories
Shorter device lifespans
Refurbished equipment can potentially last as long as new devices. Used equipment, however, has already completed part of its total lifespan, so it will most likely need to be replaced sooner than a new asset. Calculating the total cost of device ownership (TCO) can help determine whether buying used equals greater overall savings than buying new devices.
Remember to research parts availability before making used equipment decisions.
Making repairs with superior replacement components can extend the lifespan of used biomedical devices. A reputable 3rd-party manufacturer may offer quality replacement parts even if the OEM has discontinued the part or device model.
Lack of buyer protections
Virtually every new OEM machine comes with a warranty. Some certified refurbished devices have a warranty, but most used devices do not. That leaves the buyer unprotected if they receive a defective, damaged, or non-functioning device.
The costs of parts and repairs will also fall on the buyer. However, some used device vendors may include a guarantee or agree to cover specific parts and repairs.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, there's no way to eliminate all risk from the process of buying pre-owned devices. With diligence, however, purchasing agents can gather enough intel to buy used medical equipment with a reasonable amount of confidence. Using this approach, achieving financially smart pre-owned equipment purchases without compromising safety or care quality can become a reality.
Want more expert advice? Get our free guide, “Total Cost of Ownership: What Medical Equipment is Really Costing Your Company” which offers a comprehensive approach to calculating TCO for your medical equipment.
Topics covered include:
- Examining barriers to TCO accuracy
- Gathering precise data from multiple stakeholders
- Uncovering hidden costs during the full device lifecycle
- Tips for reducing capital equipment costs