When hospitals are buying medical, lab, or IT equipment, and service, they just want to know they are getting the right product at the right price. Sorting through the different product names, configurations, catalog numbers, and the dizzying array of available options can be mind-numbing – and time consuming. We review thousands of industry proposals, quotes, contracts every week and know it’s not easy. It shouldn’t be that hard – should it?
Unfortunately, many industry manufacturers and suppliers often fuel confusion, whether inadvertently or deliberately, by regularly changing the product names and catalog numbers even when the product or service is essentially unchanged. Why? If there are no new features or benefits for users, one reason for name changes is often to create a perception of “new and improved” to support increased prices. In fact, the only thing new (and for hospitals not improved) is the higher price.
One category where product names change frequently is equipment service contracts. When a new year rolls around, suppliers introduce new names for service packages covering maintenance, repair, software support, and more. How do you know if the new service offering is the same, or different, from what you probably evaluated and budgeted for the previous year?
For example – say you are renewing existing service coverage and a package that had been named “Premium +.” This has been replaced with a new package called “Preferred Premium” that appears to offer the same coverage and terms, but at a higher price. Is the price higher because the new package includes more features, or is it the same coverage with a new name? It can be frustrating and time consuming to validate any differences (other than price) and confirm the new package still meets your needs. Ideally, suppliers will be transparent and help you understand any differences, but not all may know or be forthcoming with this information. You deserve (and need) to know so you can be confident you are making the best, most cost-effective decisions.
Medical equipment and service are complex product offerings with lots of moving parts. The confusion added by changing product or service names can feel like a “shell game”. Constant changes to product and service names (and prices) make it tough for hospitals to be certain that they are getting the right product or service. Don’t you want to buy from a company or rep that helps you understand what you are buying and makes it easy for you?
There are steps you can take to avoid getting caught up in what may feel like “clever marketing games” that complicate your buying process. Here are a few strategies to help you sort through the complexity and frustration you may feel:
1. Make your supplier do the work – If you have questions about your quotes, or what changed from prior versions, insist that supplier reps make it clear. They have the best information and know what they quoted. Save yourself valuable time by making your supplier confirm or validate whatever information is needed.
2. Review quotes on an apples-to-apples basis – Even if product or service names change, a row-by-row comparison of quote details is the best (and only) way to know if anything on the quote has been changed, added, or removed. Leverage benchmarking to confirm the product, configuration and coverage are correct, and that prices are consistent with those paid by other hospitals.
3. Don’t cave in or be rushed into a decision – Supplier negotiations can take months, and reps know that eventually hospitals may run out of time and accept the quote as-is without further negotiations. Remember you are in the driver’s seat, and have the right to ask and get answers. Ask away, and hold suppliers accountable for verifying the information you need to finalize a buying decision. Suppliers want to sell you their product or service, but you control if, and when, you move forward. Use this to your advantage.
While it would be ideal if suppliers could make an already complex buying process easier, you can’t count on it. It doesn’t have to feel like a “shell game” however. Try the strategies above to know which “shell” the ball is hiding under and ensure a winning outcome for your hospital.