Have you ever had an end of service or end of life notice for your imaging equipment? What did you do about them?
The answer that seems to be common across a lot of medical practices is “nothing.” The notices often get filed away and forgotten. It’s common for no further thought to be given to them until there is an issue with the equipment itself.
Then you can find you have more of a problem than anticipated.
If we look at the recent Philips Forte recall, this is a cautionary tale of what can happen when end of service and end of life notices are ignored or pushed through. The last Philips Forte was manufactured 19 years ago at the time of this writing. Philips hasn’t supported them in years.
What do you need to know about end of service and end of life? Let’s take a closer look:
Machines Are No Longer Made
One of the first things to understand about end of service or end of life notices is that they’re not about selling you more equipment. These notices genuinely mean that the machine can’t be supported by the manufacturer, often due to certain key parts that are no longer available. Usually, the machine or equipment has not been made in a few years prior to getting an end of life notice.
This can also apply to software – there is a point when the software is no longer maintained by the developer because it has been superseded by newer versions. Continuing to use outdated software can present risks. Mirage software is one good example of this.
Manufacturers don’t keep making the same model forever. New, improved technology comes in and they retire the old technology. In many cases, key parts are made by third-party manufacturers and it is these companies that stop making them.
When you look at medical imaging equipment, you also should be concerned about how well it can perform key tasks. Advances in technology mean that diagnostics have got easier, for example.
Running older equipment may mean you simply don’t have the technology that would pick up certain features in imaging. If you trade your old car in for newer, better technology, why wouldn’t you do the same for medical equipment?
End of Life Notices
The end of life notice is typically what you’d receive first. It is telling you that the equipment is no longer made. This means that the parts currently on the shelf are all the inventory that remains. Once they are gone, you will have a much harder time getting your machine maintained.
In terms of maintenance, an end of life notice usually means that the manufacturer will put in their “best effort” to get it done. This means that they’ll work with what is available, but it’s possible they may be unable to do some things.
Technical support is typically phased out, rather than simply being removed all of a sudden. End of life notices are usually sent with plenty of notice, so you will not suddenly find your machine is not supported next week.
Another key aspect of end of life for equipment is that any field engineers sent to help you may or may not be familiar with your machine. When new equipment supersedes the old cameras, the focus of training will tend to be on the new range.
In terms of the time period between the manufacture of the machine and its end of life, some companies will do 10 years, while others do 15 or 20. As we’ve said before, if you have a gamma camera reaching the 10-year mark, it’s definitely time to start thinking about what you will need to do to replace it.
End of Service Notices
An end of service notice will come sometime after the end of life notice. This means that the manufacturer can no longer offer support to the equipment. They have no parts available and they probably don’t have engineers who are available to maintain the machines.
Some healthcare facilities get around this by finding third-party companies who have purchased old machines and parts in order to fill the gap for maintenance. The problem is that they can’t always fix everything, and sometimes the quality of the third-party maintenance is in question.
The Philips Forte is a good example. It was not only end of life, but end of service too, yet many facilities continued to run them using third-party maintenance. Here’s another thing to consider; if the manufacturer has done the right things in terms of end of life and end of service notices, then something happens such as an incident with that equipment, who is responsible? Is it the manufacturer who already advised that the equipment was end of service, or is it the medical establishment that continued to use the equipment anyway?
While it’s understandable that there are often budgetary constraints and efforts made to maximize the use of equipment, doing so against the advice of the manufacturer can open you up to a potential Philips Forte situation. This can be critical for both patients, and your medical facility.
Ultimately, from the moment you receive an end of life notice, you need to be planning to get replacement equipment. Once you get that end of service notice, that’s it. You can no longer guarantee that your equipment can be kept running in an optimal state.
This is something to take seriously, especially given that you make a large investment in your equipment and rely on it to drive revenue for your practice.
We understand that this can be contentious. In ANY technology obsolescence situation, people often feel that they’re being “forced” into buying new things when they still like the older equipment. However, keep in mind what “end of life” and “end of service” really mean. It’s important to do what’s best for your patients and your business.