Business consultant Vanessa Bird explains the best way to navigate through the process of selecting a new device
Investing in a new device for your clinic can be a protracted process as so much is at stake. Selecting the right technology or device can deliver excellent clinical results, expand your treatment menu, attract new patients to your clinic, deliver a rapid and healthy ROI, set you apart from your competitors, increase revenue, and create very happy patients. However, selecting the wrong technology can also damage your reputation if it fails to deliver the results promised, trigger exorbitant running costs if you failed to weigh up the expenditure on consumables, be a threat to patient safety, and be a very expensive learning curve.
The first thing to consider when choosing a device is the type of treatment you wish to provide. You cannot, and should not, even begin to go shopping until you understand what it is you want to offer. When thinking about what might benefit your clinic and your patients, it’s worth considering some of the following:
You may want to introduce muscle building at your clinic, but if your patients aren’t the right demographic (perhaps because of cost, medical history, preferences, or because they have too much body fat to see results from muscle building treatments), then it would be a risky investment. That’s not to say you can’t bring a new treatment on board to attract a different demographic, but you must understand that working this way involves a lot more effort on your part and will also have a slower return on investment as you take time to promote the treatment to attract new patients.
Can the device be moved from room to room or does it have particular room requirements such as certification from the Care Quality Commission, concrete floors, non-standard power sockets etc. For instance, if you are considering hair restoration you must have a ground floor room with a concrete floor, because the device will not work if the floor is unstable due to the intricacies of the work it does with hair follicles. Is the treatment noisy? If so, consider where you could locate this device to ensure it does not disturb patients in other treatment rooms. If you have a laser, will it need its own room with a specialist power socket as advised by the laser company? If so, you will need to work around that when booking patients in and ensuring you have enough space in the room.
If the treatment can be delegated to a therapist, for example HydraFacial or radiofrequency skin tightening, this may be more cost-effective depending on the prices you are charging. However, if it can only be carried out by a medical professional, you should take into consideration how much the treatment costs, and factor in whether you have the time to spend carrying out an hour-long treatment when you could be earning more in that hour doing injectables. Of course, selecting a device that can only be used by medical professionals may give you an advantage over non-medical practitioners, so it’s something to weigh up during your search for a new device.
Once you have taken into consideration the above, it’s time to make a start researching what’s out there. To help find new companies, it can be a good idea to go to big conferences and exhibitions like CCR or ACE, where all the latest devices are under one roof! Be warned; it’s a crowded marketplace with new devices popping up constantly, so stay focused and try not to get your head turned by the latest ‘shiny new device’ if it doesn’t fit your demographic, budget, or business plan. For those devices that do tick the boxes, gather as much information as possible.
When looking into a device, you should ask for clinical studies and peer reviewed papers from the device provider, and also take a look into who sponsored the study. Is it specific to this brand and device or is it a generic study for the technology? Are the results measurable and replicable for most patients? Is it cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and if so, is it specifically this device and for the treatment you wish to carry out? Sometimes an FDA attached to a device is for something else rather than the intended treatment, so be sure to check. It also goes without saying you should check the safety profile of any device, looking into whether there are any adverse reactions listed for the device publicly. Ask the device company whether they’ve had to log any from other practitioners, and also look into any contraindications that would limit who you treat.
You should also take time to look into the treatments available with the device. Is there any downtime and if so, what aftercare and follow-up is needed? You may need to consider the cost of any emollients, dressings or skin creams that the patient should use post-procedure to aid recovery and protect the skin.
It’s also worth considering whether this is a single treatment protocol or a course of treatments. If you have a lot of patients who travel many miles to see you, how practical and cost-effective is it for them to return each week for a course of four or more treatments? If they can’t adhere to the treatment protocol, then the results will be compromised, and you will have unhappy patients complaining that they didn’t see results. So, in this instance, you may be better looking for a single-protocol device over a device that necessitates a course of treatments.
An often overlooked yet important consideration is the running costs. How much is spent on consumables per treatment? Some treatments can be sold at £3,000 upwards, however if half of this is spent on consumables then it isn’t quite the money-spinner you need it to be. So, be sure to calculate the cost per treatment to see whether it’s financially worthwhile. Ask your device provider for the costs of any ongoing consumables and also the recommended pricing structure for the treatment. From that you can work out whether this will have a more rapid return on investment or not.
As well as looking into the device itself, it’s always important to know who you are buying the device from. Is it a manufacturer or a distributor, as often this may affect the support and aftercare you receive, especially if distributors are coming to the end of their contract. There have been instances where a distributor for a particular device decides to end their contract with the manufacturer before a replacement has been found, leaving their install base without any UK-based aftercare or support. This is extremely problematic should your device break down or you need additional training for new staff. Ask how long their contract with the manufacturer is running before you make your decision.
You should also ask your peers what they say about a particular company. It’s great if they say a company is always going the extra mile, supporting customers and helping them maximise profits from their investment, however alarm bells should sound if they say the company they purchased the device from had little interest in them after the sale and they could never get hold of their rep. You need a company who responds in a timely manner to any service, training or business support queries you may have. You may have the best technology available and purchase it at the best price but if you cannot get hold of someone when you need help, advice or support you’ll soon wish you purchased elsewhere.
I also recommend searching online for reviews about the treatment and finding out what patients are saying about it, as this is where you’ll find the unfiltered truth about whether they feel it’s worth the money and if it delivers the promised results.
Once you have shortlisted your devices, it’s time to request a demo. In most instances a company will be happy to oblige and either arrange to bring a device to your clinic for a demo or arrange for you to visit another clinic or their training center. If they refuse to demo, ask yourself why this might be. Perhaps the results aren’t as promised, and they don’t want you seeing that. During the demo ask if you can carry out a supervised treatment on a patient so you can feel how difficult or easy the applicator is to use, then get on the treatment couch and experience it for yourself. Get your team involved and encourage them to ask questions and try it for themselves so you can get a variety of opinions and feedback to help you make your decision.
Once you’ve chosen your device it’s time to negotiate. It’s not just the sale price you should consider but what comes with it. Key things that you need to look at include the warranty and service package, how much training is included, what marketing materials you receive, what their upgrade policy is should a newer device be released, what the call-out response time is if you have a problem, if they have courtesy machines if yours needs to be fixed, and the ongoing service costs once the warranty has expired.
The package is almost as important as the device purchase itself because extras like a warranty, a service package or training all cost money when paid for separately outside of the package. Ask the device company how much their annual service package is each year and how much it will cost you each time you need new members of staff trained up. If it is expensive then negotiate a longer service package or more training as part of the deal. Don’t just be swayed by a good price on the immediate sale as this is the start of a long partnership and you need to ensure what you receive afterwards is going to meet your needs. Sometimes it is better to forgo a discount on the device and get a longer warranty and service package, as they will be worth more over a longer period of time and give you peace of mind.
Buying a new device is a huge investment and there are many things to take into consideration before making a choice. If you take your time and follow the points outlined in this article you should greatly improve your chances of selecting the right device for your clinic. Remember, your professional reputation is based on the results you deliver and the safety of the treatments you provide so take steps to preserve it by carrying out due diligence when researching and selecting new devices.
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