Ownership has competition
When I was growing up, it was critical to get your license and buy a car as soon as you turned 16. Owning and driving a car was a status symbol and was representative of certain privileges and abilities. In the late 90’s/early 2000’s every driving-age member in a household had to have a car in the driveway. Car manufacturers continually raised the stakes with each other and competed to deliver more luxurious and technologically advanced cars than their counterparts. As a consumer, it was important to keep up and show your neighbors that you could afford the latest and greatest.
Then all of that changed. The cost of ownership became restrictive as gas prices went up and insurance and maintenance continued to be expensive necessary evils. People found that they were not really driving as often as they initially expected. Technology was created to support access to cars over ownership – creating a whole new economy and allowing consumers to share in the cost of ownership and access cars when they needed them, on demand. In many cases, owning a car still made sense, but leveraging technology and the sharing economy allowed people greater access to cars than ever before. One could now drive the safest, most luxurious and advanced car without the restrictive costs associated with owning that car. Companies like ZipCar, Uber, Lyft, SideCar, RelayRides were all created to create greater access than ever before. And it has fundamentally changed the landscape of transportation.
Equipment ownership in healthcare: no longer the only option
How does the rise of the sharing economy in the automobile industry apply to healthcare? Simple – we are in the midst of the exact same evolution now. The traditional models of care, across the board, are changing. In similar fashion to how consumers began to think about their use of cars, so should CEO’s and CFO’s of hospitals and health systems think about their use of medical equipment, specifically perioperative equipment. Why would a hospital or a health system buy expensive surgical technology, incur all the costs of ownership, just to have it go underutilized and sit in a storage room? Why would a hospital buy a piece of equipment just to advertise that they have it just like their competitor down the street? Does that sound eerily similar to parking a nice car in your driveway to let your neighbors know what you can afford?
There is now an opportunity to leverage technology to create access never before possible and reduce the reliance on ownership of medical equipment and all the inherent potential inefficiencies associated with it. This is not to say that there is no longer a need to buy medical equipment – quite the contrary, there will always exist a need to do so. However, it is no longer the only option.