Consumers Attitudes Toward The Reuse of Equipment
Hospitals and medical practices around the world are enthusiastic consumers of used medical equipment, a market that is projected to be worth $8.7 billion by 2025. However, many American consumers are reluctant to explore the benefits of pre-owned medical equipment, which is often underutilized in the United States. We believe that much of this reluctance is due to a few misconceptions. As experts in the recycling of radiation therapy, diagnostic imaging, and other pre-owned medical solutions, we would like to debunk a few of these ideas and answer some common questions about this option.
- Newer equipment is better, and used equipment is not good or reliable enough to buy.
Many types of medical equipment, such as linear accelerator machines and MRI scanners, are designed to be used for decades. Devices that have been used by other consumers are still fully capable of providing high-quality care for patients. While it is true that the technologies in brand-new machines are sometimes superior and may be necessary for certain types of cutting-edge care, most consumers find that used equipment is sufficient to meet their patients’ needs.
- Not knowing the past life or past use of the equipment comes with a higher risk.
The truth is that the optimal lifetime for medical equipment often far exceeds the amount of time that owners actually use it. For example, linacs have useful lifespans of 15 to 20+ years, during which there is no more risk of malfunction than there was in its first years of use. Allowing this equipment to complete its useful life isn’t just good business–it is also imperative from an environmental sustainability standpoint.
- Warranties may be insufficient or nonexistent.
Just as they do for new equipment, vendors of used equipment offer warranty plans, many of which have the same language and protections as the warranties available for new products. In fact, many companies offer consumers a choice of plans, so they can make their own decisions about which protections are sufficient for their needs. At ROS, customers can choose from several warranty plans as well as full-service maintenance contracts. They can even choose warranty plans for their software, to ensure security and reliability for their machines.
- There is a lack of standards or best practices for used equipment.
This is not true. The FDA has comprehensive regulations for the servicing and refurbishment of used medical equipment that vendors must follow. A 2018 report on these requirements’ effectiveness found that “many OEMs and third-party entities provide high quality, safe, and effective servicing of medical devices.” The FDA had an opportunity to revise the guidelines and declined to do so. Why? Because they are working effectively.
- Refurbishment is difficult, expensive, and/or dangerous.
Many used medical devices only require minimal refurbishment to meet quality and safety standards and be ready for reuse. Moreover, the costs that do come with refurbishment are often offset by savings in other areas. For example, used medical devices usually have a lower up-front cost for consumers, lower insurance costs, and avoid the steep initial depreciation that comes with new devices. Experienced vendors are well equipped to ensure safety during the installation of new devices and removal of old ones. For example, ROS has successfully managed more than 700 equipment projects around the world.
When they get past these misconceptions, decision makers often find they can exploit the advantages of used equipment to support their organizational goals. For hospitals and medical practices that are working to make progress in cost cutting, expansion, or environmental sustainability, used equipment can be a crucial tool.
Across all stages of the equipment life cycle, owners and purchasers of medical equipment can do their part to support these goals. They can do this by encouraging the use of equipment for optimal lifetimes, changing consumer attitudes toward pre-owned equipment, and implementing enhanced systems that privilege reuse over equipment disposal. Together, these actions can change perceptions of reuse and move the healthcare industry toward a more efficient and sustainable future.