How to Buy Used Equipment
Pre-owned equipment can be
a bargain -- or a problem.
By Jeffrey D. Weinstock, Esq.
The steadily rising cost of equipment, along with declining reimbursement, has led some ophthalmologists to consider purchasing used equipment. While buying pre-owned equipment may be a good way to save money, it could also end up costing you more in the long run.
Buying used equipment is like buying a used car. If you purchase the right car from the right seller, it can be a great experience. However, if you buy the wrong car from the wrong seller, it can be a huge problem. This month, I'll discuss the pros and cons of buying used equipment.
Patient Care Comes First
You must always make sure that patient care isn't compromised by using outdated equipment. Make sure you're familiar with the technology you're getting prior to purchasing it. You don't want to be using obsolete equipment.
While slit lamps and examination chairs manufactured a few years ago are generally very similar to newer models, some equipment has changed drastically in the past few years, or even months.
Typically, you're looking to buy pre-owned equipment because it's cheaper and perhaps easier for you to use, but as a trade-off, you'll certainly have less protection in terms of a warranty and professional repairs if problems should arise.
You should thoroughly research the seller of the equipment. Many companies will sell you refurbished equipment that they originally manufactured. Buying from the manufacturer has two distinct advantages. First, the manufacturer knows its own equipment and can usually be counted on to refurbish it and maintain it correctly. Second, you cut out the middleman. If you have a problem with the equipment, you'll be dealing directly with the people who can fix it.
Know the Seller
If you're not buying directly from a manufacturer, be sure to select a reputable seller who'll work with you if problems arise. Keep in mind that if you're buying equipment from someone other than the manufacturer, you may not have a manufacturer's warranty. The warranty may have expired, may not be transferable to a subsequent buyer, or may require a maintenance contract to be effective.
A brief search for "used medical equipment" on the Internet yields a large number of companies. Many of these are simply middlemen that seek to buy equipment and pass it on to physicians with little further contact. For example, equipment may be sold "as is-where is" with no warranty and no representation that the equipment is in good working order. Buying "as is" is only a good idea if you carefully inspect the equipment and are certain that it works perfectly. Trying to repair equipment yourself is a bad idea.
It's important to keep in mind that when you're buying used equipment, written documents such as a contract for sale or bill of sale will govern your remedies in case of problem. If you're buying a laser, make sure the agreement identifies the party responsible for making sure the laser is calibrated. Sellers will often add language that limits their liability in the case of a claim that the equipment caused injury. Although sellers (especially those who aren't manufacturers) will often claim this is a nonnegotiable point, make sure you're comfortable with the amount of the limit.
You Could Be Liable
Keep in mind that you'll be the first person patients look to for recovery if they're injured as a result of outdated, malfunctioning or improperly calibrated equipment.
Using outdated equipment could end up costing you dearly if it's shown that a patient could have received a better outcome with newer, more accurate equipment. So make sure you know whether there's a warranty or a remedy under the purchase contract that tells you who's ultimately responsible.
Weinstock, Esq. is a corporate/transactional attorney located in Boca Raton, Fla..
Ophthamology Management, Issue: April 2003