Medicine is a high-tech business—from the EMT with a defibrillator to the DaVinci surgical robot. Repairing the tiny computers in high-tech medical equipment is a major cost for health-care providers. A broken defibrillator is useless in an emergency and a broken MRI machine delays diagnosis and care.
An in-house engineer can repair broken equipment cheaply and quickly—so staff can get back to the business of saving lives. But techs need access to parts, diagnostics, and service information—which some manufacturers don't want them to have.
Repair monopolies, created by equipment manufacturers, are driving health care costs up and patient care down.
Hospitals and Clinics Need Access
Ahmad Nooristani was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 14 years old. Decades later, he opened a non-profit, free health clinic in San Luis Obispo, California—because he wanted to give back.
The doctors and nurses at the Noor Foundation Clinic rely on medical devices to help them diagnose and treat patients. And, because those machines cost thousands of dollars, Dr. Nooristani needs them to last for as long as possible. But everything breaks eventually.
But medical manufacturers won't share repair documentation with practitioners—even to free clinics like Dr. Nooristani's! They're presenting free clinics with a Hobbesian choice: pay exorbitant prices for the factory technician or go without the equipment.
In developing countries, broken hospital equipment is a life and death scenario.
Frank Weithoener is a well-regarded biomedical repair technician in Tanzania. He identifies five major barriers to medical device repair in developing countries:
- No spare parts for repairs and maintenance
- No technical manuals
- Poorly trained biomedical technicians
- No technical support from the manufacturers
- Lack of awareness of the advantages of preventive maintenance
Since manufacturers weren't supporting the repair of their products, Frank decided to do it himself. He runs a website, Frank's Hospital Workshop, dedicated to training technicians. Unfortunately, Weyer, General Electric, and other manufacturers regularly send him legal threats and take-down notices demanding that he stop teaching people to repair life-critical medical equipment.
Repair of critical hospital equipment is vital to the managing costs, and it's vital to providing patients with the care they need. The International Association of Medical Equipment Remarketers and Services (IAMERS) agrees. They've joined us in calling for wider access to repair information for hospitals.
More repair means better care.