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Toshiba takes different approach to multivendor service with COHR deal


COHR will service non-Toshiba equipmentToshiba America Medical Systems became the last of the Big Five multimodality imaging vendors to adopt a multivendor service program when it signed an agreement with independent service organization COHR of

COHR will service non-Toshiba equipment

Toshiba America Medical Systems became the last of the Big Five multimodality imaging vendors to adopt a multivendor service program when it signed an agreement with independent service organization COHR of Chatsworth, CA.

Under the terms of the deal, Toshiba will offer its customers COHR's multivendor service and asset management services, and COHR gains Toshiba as a channel through which its services can be marketed, according to Brian Turnbull, vice president of the Toshiba Technology Services business unit at the Tustin, CA, company. On accounts where the companies are collaborating, Toshiba will service its own equipment, while COHR will service equipment manufactured by other companies.

"The benefit here is that we now can offer asset management and multivendor service on other OEMs' products without directly servicing those products ourselves, and at the same time service and support all of TAMS' products," Turnbull said.

Toshiba began examining multivendor service about a year ago, according to Turnbull. The company has found itself eliminated from some equipment sales situations because it has not been able to offer asset management and multivendor service. At the same time, COHR has been eliminated from some asset management deals because it can't offer imaging equipment sales, according to Sandy Morford, COHR president and COO.

In some cases, COHR has found that the multimodality OEMs with which it competes are willing to offer new scanners to hospitals at sharply discounted rates to secure asset management contracts.

"We've seen more and more occurrences of manufacturers bringing to the table a tool that we don't have," Morford said. "It has cost us at least one or two deals in the last six to nine months."

COHR provides equipment service to some 1200 healthcare customers, 250 of whom also use the company's asset management services, Morford said.

Toshiba decided to go with a partner rather than build its own multivendor program from scratch, due to the heavy investment that route would require. The company chose COHR because of its experience in asset management and multivendor service, its rapid growth over the past several years, and the company's viability, according to Turnbull.

"From our position, the main thing was to not reinvent the wheel," Turnbull said. "If we could strategically align ourselves with a company that had the strength, then we said let's do it."

COHR offers three major product lines, two of which interest Toshiba most. COHR's Maintenance MasterPlan division is its asset management/multivendor services business, while its Purchase Connection unit offers group purchasing services to over 1800 members, giving Toshiba another avenue for equipment sales. Toshiba will join Picker as the only other medical imaging vendor in that program, Morford said. A third COHR unit offers electronic data interchange.

Going with a partner enables Toshiba to begin offering multivendor service sooner than if it built a program from the ground up-Toshiba will start marketing COHR's services June 1. But there are other benefits as well. A common criticism of asset management programs run by multimodality OEMs charges that they are the medical imaging equivalent of putting the fox in charge of the hen house. These critics allege that OEMs might favor their own equipment over that of their competitors in advising asset management clients on new purchases. Toshiba could minimize such conflicts by having asset management offered through a third party.

In the future, Toshiba will examine the expansion of asset management and multivendor service from medical imaging equipment into new areas, such as computer equipment and telecommunications-other businesses in which Toshiba's parent company participates, Turnbull said.

In other COHR news, the company earlier this month reported that it has signed $6.3 million in new equipment service contracts with five healthcare organizations. The company also said that, for the first time, it passed the $1 million mark for new orders of high-tech capital medical equipment, with $1.5 million in orders received in the fourth quarter of fiscal 1997.

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