Refurbished Equipment Can Lower CostsRefurbished Vet Equipment Can Lower Costs, buying preowned medical equipmentBut be sure to look for warranties and technical support, advisers recommend.Buying pre-owned medical equipment doesn’t have to mean compromising product quality or efficacy if a practitioner uses a reputable source.cover storiesRefurbished Equipment Can Lower CostsPosted: Oct. 14, 2011, 4:05 p.m. EDT
Buying pre-owned medical equipment doesn’t have to mean compromising product quality or efficacy if a practitioner uses a reputable source.
Companies that certify, guarantee and provide written warranties for refurbished equipment offer security for the buyer if the item doesn’t work properly or needs repair within a set timeframe after purchase.
“First, you have to compare apples to apples,” says Drew Blackstone, president and CEO of Apexx Veterinary Equipment in Englewood, Colo. “Buying equipment [from individuals] on eBay, VIN.com or from the clinic across town that went out of business is a ‘buyer beware’ purchase and very different than buying from a reputable equipment vendor,” he says. “There can be greater risks that may outweigh any benefits when using these types of vendors to purchase equipment.”
Purchasing equipment without a warranty or support could mean losing the full amount invested. The benefits of buying a certified piece of pre-owned equipment, however, are difficult to ignore.
“When buying pre-owned, the initial depreciation’s already been paid by the original purchaser,” Blackstone notes. “You can get years of benefit from good refurbished equipment. However, if it’s not reconditioned properly and you have to buy missing or malfunctioning accessories or spend more money to repair it to a working condition, then it may not be such a good deal.”
Experts recommend working with a company specializing in veterinary equipment because the seller is invested in the industry and isn’t selling to veterinarians as a sideline to the human medical field.
“Doctors are always looking for a great value, and oftentimes that can be found in a proven piece of refurbished equipment,” says Kristen Grady, national sales director for Grady Medical in Murrieta, Calif. “Baxter infusion pumps, for instance, are used for around eight years before having to repair or replace them. Veterinarians can purchase them for around half the cost of a new infusion pump. We have definitely seen a huge influx of sales on our refurbished [items] since the market’s downturn.”
Purchasing a refurbished piece of equipment has other benefits. Sometimes refurbished equipment is still the industry standard and doesn’t require retraining clinic staff.
“In this situation, the technology is proven, staff members have already been trained on its use and there is a comfort level that comes with using equipment you are familiar with,” says Becki Hyde, marketing specialist of DRE Veterinary in Louisville, Ky. “In addition to significant cost savings, you may be able to match up with other equipment you already have in order to gain efficiency with supplies and accessories you already use.”
Veterinarians might purchase refurbished equipment as a backup or when they experience a temporary increase in patient visits.
“A veterinarian might run a spay/neuter clinic for a few months and need additional equipment but doesn’t want to buy something brand new,” says Tammi Lesser, director of marketing for VetLab, Idexx, in Westbrook, Maine. “Analyzers retain their value and are a no-brainer when looking for something with a guaranteed return on investment.”
Purchasing wisely means not having to pay more to fix equipment than buying something new would have cost.
What to Ask
“Since all refurbished equipment has different levels of quality, ask questions to determine if the company provides what you want and need,” Blackstone says.
“Ask who reconditioned it, if all of the original parts and accessories are included. Ask what the warranty entails and if parts and labor are included. Veterinarians also need to know who at the company they can speak with regarding technical questions related to the equipment.”
Companies define quality differently, so how a company determines which pre-owned equipment to refurbish is important, as some equipment can be too outdated or too damaged to trust.
“We ask veterinarians to send us Idexx analyzers they’ve purchased from a third party,” Lesser says. “We can offer an extended maintenance agreement if it passes our service process. When buying through the original manufacturer is possible, the inspection process has already happened. Every company is different. We’ve looked at analyzers for certification sent to us by veterinarians that have been through floods—and then resold. Those pieces of equipment are a total loss.”
Sometimes refurbished equipment isn’t the right route, says Rex Hunter, owner of Professional Medical Sales Inc. in Orlando, Fla.
“A veterinarian needs to determine if it’s worth buying refurbished or new,” Hunter says. “More high-tech equipment like chemistry/hematology pieces are not always going to provide a vet with the best tools unless the manufacturer offers upgrades. Buying refurbished sterilizers, instruments and IV poles, which, aren’t technology based, can really save a veterinarian money.”
Lesser says companies offering quality refurbished equipment are not as common as those taking a third-party approach, such as selling online. That means buyers need to be exceptionally careful to avoid a bad purchase. Buying some equipment new, however, is almost unheard of.
“Veterinarians buying CAT scans or linear accelerators typically make those purchases from human hospitals looking to upgrade their equipment,” Lesser says. “Even used, these instruments can cost around $100,000. Knowing what to ask before buying this equipment can mean avoiding frustration down the road.”
Manufacturers frequently offer training for a new piece of technology-based equipment. With refurbished equipment, training can be hit or miss.
“Luckily, there is less need for training on refurbished equipment because it is often known, proven equipment that many people have experience with,” Hyde says. “The downside is the availability of end-user training. Logistically, it is very difficult to have staff certified on so many different variations of equipment. This and the liability issues associated with training are barriers for most refurbished-equipment distributors.”
While not all providers offer training, they often can make acquisition suggestions. In addition, veterinarians need access to customer service.
“We offer tech support,” Lesser says. “When buying something new to the practice [new or refurbished], it’s an important thing to have access to.”
Refurbished equipment can be costly, so financing may be necessary. Veterinarians considering financing need to weigh their options.
“We offer financing and leasing for refurbished equipment we have branded ‘Apexx pre-owned certified equipment,’” Blackstone says. “Depending on the purchase amount, we offer short-term, 0 percent financing and also long-term financing and leasing. These options vary between providers.”
Individual companies might offer a price reduction on new equipment when a repair or refurbished purchase doesn’t work out.
“When I repair a veterinarian’s machine and then he decides within six months that he want to make a purchase of a new piece of equipment from us, we’ll subtract the cost of the repair and even accept it as a trade in,” Hunter says. “When companies provide options to veterinarians on refurbished and repaired equipment, it generally means they’re not interested in taking their money and running—which can happen when buying online.”
10/17/2011 10:23 AM