Maxum's purchase plan: maximize existing assets

February 10, 1993

Operating-lease financing has provided Maxum Health with the flexibilitynecessary to upgrade its mobile MRI fleet, while keeping the totalnumber of systems steady. The Dallas imaging services firm, oncea major Diasonics MRI customer in its previous life

Operating-lease financing has provided Maxum Health with the flexibilitynecessary to upgrade its mobile MRI fleet, while keeping the totalnumber of systems steady. The Dallas imaging services firm, oncea major Diasonics MRI customer in its previous life as VHA DiagnosticServices, has shifted over to predominantly GE MRI equipment.

Leasing enables Maxum to mitigate technological obsolescenceand boost throughput without merely adding on new MRI systems.

"We don't anticipate growth in the number of MR systemsthe company operates in any significant degree," said NancyJ. Corday, senior vice president. "But we anticipate addingactivity to the assets we already have or trading up our existingassets for systems that have market acceptability for our existingcustomers or new customers."

By leaving ownership risk with the lessor, Maxum has also positioneditself to exploit a tight MRI market and increased system discounting.

"There is a lot of proven (MRI) equipment available,"Corday told SCAN. "This equipment is very acceptable to themarket, and we're finding it available at attractive pricing.Part of that accrues from our being a major purchaser and havingestablished relationships with the vendors."

Maxum works at the national accounts level when negotiatingwith MRI vendors, giving it the same type of leverage as large,hospital-chain vendors.

"In order to maximize purchasing power and manage ourassets most efficiently, we negotiate for equipment acquisitionon a headquarters level at our company and we do that with counterpartsin the manufacturers' organizations," Corday said.

Maxum has chosen to switch to higher field strength systemsbecause of throughput and imaging application advantages. Theold Diasonics system, now Toshiba's, is a 0.35-tesla machine.Maxum purchased multiple GE 0.5-tesla MR Max scanners last year,but also runs Toshiba 0.5-tesla systems as well as units fromSiemens and Picker (SCAN 2/26/92).

As Maxum builds its imaging center business, its purchasingpatterns will change accordingly. All Maxum centers are multimodality,Corday said.

"We will increasingly be a purchaser of ultrasound, nuclearmedicine, and general x-ray equipment. Since one tends to acquirecenters that have been established for awhile, chances are thatwe will be replacing some of that equipment," she said.

With the uncertainty of federal and state restrictions on referring-physicianownership of imaging centers, many doctors are reluctant to upgradeaging equipment, Corday said. This provides multicenter firmswith an advantage when negotiating purchases.

Centers appear to have had a drop in imaging procedure volumeover the last year, some of which can be traced to regulatoryunease. This adds to the physician inclination to sell, she said.

"A combination of factors is making them increasinglydisposed to sell. But at the same time they are very concernedabout picking a buyer they will be comfortable with after thesale. They establish these centers not just for investment purposes,but for the convenience and service features for their patientsand for themselves. So they want to select a buyer who will preservethose features and who is a good operating entity."

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • Agfa signed a six-year radiology film contract with HolyCross Health System of South Bend, IN, last month. The relationshipcould provide the film vendor with $25 million in business overthe duration of the contract, which involves 33 facilities ownedor managed by the group and lasts through the end of 1998.

No bundling of film to equipment orders or free merchandisewas involved in the contract, a coup for Agfa in the highly competitivemedical film market. The contract does cover equipment as wellas film and environmental compliance assistance. Agfa will providediscounted service and a guaranteed response time of no more thanthree hours.

Administrators and purchasing managers at each hospital willagree with Agfa on a monthly visitation schedule by the vendor'sterritory manager. If that commitment is not maintained, Agfawill supply the hospital with a month's worth of free film.