The Limitations of Off-the-Shelf Components When It Comes to Medical Devices

With a shift in the patients’ lifestyle, health facilities have been forced to alter their operations to meet the changing lifestyle of the patients. Onset of the Covid-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for landmark technologies like digital hospitals to be adopted in health facilities. Other technologies like artificial intelligence, remote monitoring and treatment, electronic health records (HER), and 3D printing are recent innovations that are changing health facilities’ operations. However, such innovations’ main limitation is that they are off-shelf technologies, implying that they are developed for the mass market. Some of the limitations of off-shelf components in the medical field include:

Inability to adapt to your operations

According to a leading medical device component manufacturer, adopting an off-the-shelf component in your hospital will force you to adapt your operations to adapt to the machine’s capacity. Changing your operations to suit your machine’s components will reduce inefficiency in your hospital and lower your competitive edge.

Think of the system flow in diagnosing patients, for instance. The best practice is that the doctor instructs the laboratory to conduct some tests; then, the results are relayed to the doctor’s office in real-time. If the off-shelf component adopted in your hospital does not support this system, this implies that the patient will have to wait longer to get results. Further, patients will be forced to walk from the doctor to the laboratory to get the physical results making your operations long and inconveniencing patients.

Static features

According to Information Systems research, adopting an off-the-shelf component implies that you are at the developers’ mercy regarding when and how you will get the new features. At the onset of covid-19, when hospitals encouraged patients to stay at home and seek medical services virtually, many hospitals that lacked the technology to provide such services lost patients.

With static features of the off-the-shelf components, you cannot change your operation to meet new emerging customer needs. Hospitals are forced to rely on old, outdated technology in the wake of rapidly changing consumer needs. With custom medical components, you can add, edit, delete, adjust or amend the components at any time to suit your needs. The current customer is rapidly shifting and more informed than ever, thus to stay competitive in the medical field, you must identify and adapt to the rapidly changing customer needs.

Off-shelf components can be expensive.

According to Digital Guardian, adopting Off-the-shelf components seems cheap since they benefit from large scale economies. Still, as you adopt the technology, the cost increases with each additional user. For instance, if your monthly cost is $50 for five users, this might seem affordable initially. However, as you scale your operations and increase your team to 500 people, the cost increases substantially.

Price is not the only cost implication of adopting an off-the-shelf component. Staff training, lack of integration, and unreliable technical support are some hidden costs of such technology. If you purchase a machine, and your current team lacks the skills to use it, you will be forced to incur additional staff training costs. However, in custom medical devices, staff training is part of the initial cost, making it cheaper.

Thus, while off-the-shelf medical equipment seems affordable at first, the hidden costs like staff training, lack of integration, and a lack of continuous technical support can make this technology quite expensive.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

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