December 8, 2018
Preparing for a medical mission is an exciting process. However, you may also encounter many problems - especially if this is your first mission trip. Some of the most common problems people have include:
- What is my call?
- What help do I need?
- Should I travel alone or with a mission organization?
- How will I get to my destination?
In addition to this initial list of issues, there is a completely different set of questions related to purchasing medical equipment for your task. You may be wondering if you have the knowledge to choose the right device for your task or how to find a trusted medical device supplier.
Fortunately, you can narrow down the list of potential device vendors and device options by considering the vendor's experience and the type of environment you are going to work with. Here are four questions to ask when purchasing a mission medical device:
1. What is the supplier's experience with the medical task team?
Fast Internet search can bring thousands of medical device companies. However, finding a company with experience in providing equipment for medical task teams and non-profit organizations can be challenging.
Many medical delegations go to developing countries, and hospitals may or may not have a consistent power source. If there is no generator, the project may take a long time to back up the battery. Other factors to consider when evaluating equipment companies include:
- In the United States, the power supply may require 220 volts instead of the standard 110 volts.
- The proximity of the hospital to the grid or mains power can affect device functionality.
- Some devices cannot be used with a transformer.
- Extreme heat and humidity in various areas can affect equipment function.
Don't be afraid to ask your medical device supplier about the reference and mission groups they have worked with in the past. Experienced suppliers will be proud to share information about past and current projects.
2. Is the device suitable for the facility you are visiting?
There are no two clinics or hospitals in a country that are identical. Some people have higher levels of technology, while others lack basic necessities. You are preparing for the facility you are visiting, and the better the results of the mission. If you have a local contact/organizer, ask about the equipment used at the hospital. Ask them if they are facing any challenges in operating the equipment and why they have discarded equipment in the past.
Confirm that the devices currently in use in the facility have access to a wealth of information. When you understand the state of the art in your facility, you can make purchasing decisions that will benefit your facility now and in the future.
3. Is the equipment sustainable for long-term use?
The primary task of purchasing medical equipment is sustainability. The best way to determine if a device is sustainable is to confirm the availability of field technicians or biomedical engineers. If there is no technician, does the staff plan to service the equipment or at least troubleshoot the field equipment? If the skill level is too high, the device may never be used again because local employees will not support it. If not properly maintained, medical equipment that used to be a wonderful gift will soon become a medical waste.
Identify short-term and long-term expectations for equipment use. Does the hospital have the need to meet and meet these expectations? Ask yourself which consumables are needed during the time frame of the mission and consider bringing in a list of consumables. Confirm that your device requires pediatric or adult accessories. If you carry equipment with adult accessories and the facility only sees pediatric patients, your equipment and accessories will not be suitable for long-term use.
4. What types of ongoing support are there?
A key factor in equipment sustainability is vendor support. When evaluating suppliers, be sure to ask the following questions:
- Does the supplier offer on-site training or distance learning opportunities?
- Can you use the spare parts you need?
- What type of ongoing support does the supplier offer?
The answers to the above four questions will determine the success of your next medical mission and the long-term sustainability of your equipment in developing countries.