Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Products

Selecting new products can be tricky and overwhelming at times, but it’s crucial to take the time to do your research. The following are 10 of the main questions you should consider before buying the latest equipment on the market.

1. Has the product been tested, and does it function and perform as the literature and salesperson says it will? Anyone can bring a product to market, so make sure the product you’re spending your agency’s money on has been well tested if it’s directly related to patient care.

2. Who else uses the product in the industry, and what do they think of the product’s usefulness and performance? Call around and talk to other users; it will be well worth your time. Agencies and people who have used the product are sometimes your best resource on product performance. The Internet makes this fairly easy with blogs and e-mail. Surveys work well too. Ask the vendor for a list of agencies and contact people currently using the product.

3. Is the product cost effective, and does it fit in the current budget? Is it a one-time expense or will the product need to be supported financially for years to come? Many products have future budget implications from the day you buy them. Understand the financial commitment each product carries and plan what the costs will be for the life of the product, such as preventative maintenance, product supplies and repair cost when damaged.

4. How much education will it take to introduce the new product to its users and will the vendor share that time and expense with the agency? Clinicians aren’t usually going to read the owner’s manual, so some form of training is going to be required when a new product is introduced in your agency. In a large agency, training can take lots of time and be costly. The product vendor should support the initial product implementation by providing the training for the whole department or doing a “train-the-trainer” session.

5. What is the company’s ability to support the product into the future? A warranty is only as good as the company that backs the product. There are really no guarantees these days that a company will be there to back up the warranty, so make it your goal to purchase products from companies that are well established in the industry.  

6. Will the product make the clinical care provider’s job easier or harder? Chiefs sometimes burden their field providers with equipment that isn’t user friendly or ergonomic. Before you buy, get input and feedback from the end users. What may look good on the Internet from your desk may not work well in the back of an ambulance.

7. Is the product durable enough for the EMS industry? In EMS we break lots of stuff on a regular basis. Products must be ruggedized for our work environment and should perform well in any and all weather conditions, 24 hours a day. 

8. Will the product require regular service and maintenance? Who fixes it when it breaks, and where are they located? This is important: When it breaks it’s going to need to be fixed. Local service for key equipment is a must. Drop shipping an important piece of equipment overnight (like cardiac monitors) can result in out-of-service time for your ambulance unless a backup is immediately available.

9. Will this product make a difference in patient outcomes in some fashion? There are lots of things that EMS providers wish they had, but budget priority should focus on items that directly improve patient outcomes before we spend money on the “wish list.”

10. Could I convince my supervisors that this product is necessary and justify the expense to the city mangers (or taxpayers) if need be? If you’re in EMS management, you understand that money doesn’t grow on trees and that you often have to justify your potential purchase to someone up the chain of command.

Can you justify $35,000 for a cardiac monitor to get it through the budget process? Are there alternatives to the purchase? Can you formulate a convincing argument based on need, product performance, longevity and improved patient outcomes?

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