An increasing number of healthcare facilities are repairing, rather than replacing, their equipment. In four years, the U.S. medical device maintenance market is expected to balloon to $12.6 billion, up approximately 64 percent from $7.7 billion in 2018, according to a July 2019 study by the Prescient & Strategic Intelligence market research firm.
As doctors focus on fixing their devices, a lack of understanding around how to schedule a repair for, say, an infusion pump can lead to higher maintenance costs and a longer wait time for repairs. Likewise, a veterinarian running their own business may not have a good sense of when to invest in a new X-ray machine, rather than to just keep fixing it.
Jinesh Patel founded UptimeHealth in May 2018 with the aim of smoothing these learning curves.
These individuals are really good at taking care of people and doing the medical work, but not that great at managing medical equipment.”
“These very small facilities are owned, managed and operated by medical professionals, not, you know, IT or biomed technicians or engineering professionals,” said Patel. “These individuals are really good at taking care of people and doing the medical work, but not that great at managing medical equipment.”
UptimeHealth connects doctors, dentists, opthamologists and more with the biomedical repair technicians they need to fix their devices. The firm charges a service fee for every repair completed through the platform. Its software can also track how often items are breaking down, as well as how much a repair costs, and offers suggestions about when might be the right time to just buy the new CT scanner they need. It charges health care facilities a monthly subscription fee to monitor their equipment.
Just over a year later, the Boston firm credits health care facilities that use its technician referral services with saving an average of 20 percent per repair. It says its device monitoring cuts time spent minding equipment health by more than 30 percent.
‘He was super shocked’
Patel said he was inspired to start UptimeHealth after his physician father asked him for a technician referral for a small doctor’s office. Then a clinical engineering manager at a large hospital network in Austin, Patel knew a guy. When he saw the physician’s eyes light up when the repair cost 40 percent less than usual, Patel knew he had stumbled onto something else, too.
“He was super shocked that it could even happen,” Patel said. “I was like, ‘The fact that you are bright eyed about like fixing equipment as a possibility means that this is something that no one really knows in your industry.’”
The doctor was excited about using local, independent repair technicians — a stark change from the traditional route, where small doctors offices found technicians by contacting the equipment’s manufacturer. “If you had a Mercedes, it’s like taking it to a Mercedes dealership every time you need the slightest thing done, which is kind of expensive,” Patel said. Or, doctors traditionally used word of mouth to find someone, like Patel’s dad’s friend. Sometimes, if they bought a refurbished machine online from somewhere like eBay — still a popular destination for buying used medical equipment — the person they bought it from might also be able to fix it.
By using UptimeHealth, physicians can access a standardized, transparent process for finding and scheduling repair technicians, the company says.
Keeping tabs on equipment can have additional benefits, too. After heavy rains recently flooded an emergency room in southern Texas, the facility used its UptimeHealth database to submit an insurance claim, Patel said. Before subscribing to the software, Patel said, the firm had never kept track of their equipment.
“For them, it saved them millions of dollars,” Patel said. “In the event of these unforeseen catastrophes, there is at least a place that documents all the stuff that you had.”
Next up: ratings, automated onboarding
UptimeHealth’s many use cases — along with the size and fragmented nature of the medical device repair industry — excites investors, Patel said. In early August, UptimeHealth received $1.095 million in funding, which brought total investment in the firm to $1.7 million.
Patel said he plans to use the cash to grow the number of repair technicians on the marketplace, expand into new specialties and automate UptimeHealth’s process for authenticating technicians.
Right now, when a technician applies to join UptimeHealth, a member of the company’s 10-person team reaches out to the applicant and sets up a time to interview them. The interviewer asks them about certification programs they have completed and how they would approach fixing certain equipment before asking to see old repair notes, Patel said. The process takes a few hours.
UptimeHealth aims to automate this process so it more closely resembles LinkedIn certification, which takes just minutes for a technician to submit their information by themselves.
“That way, we can cross reference a national database to make sure that it’s accurate,” Patel said.
In the next few months, the firm also plans to add a tool that allows health care facilities to rate the work of the some 1,300 biomedical technicians listed on the platform.
UptimeHealth is evaluating adding individuals who can repair a facility’s HVAC, plumbing and fix fax and copy machines to the platform. The eventual goal is to expand UptimeHealth so it competes with marketplaces like eBay, and acts as a place where healthcare facilities can both repair old and purchase new medical devices — an annual market that Patel estimated at $200 billion.