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Delivering cost-effective and flexible medical equipment maintenance

It is not every day that an independent medical maintenance service provider achieves an ISO certification. In fact, it is quite rare. Yet, a relatively young company, MESA, has achieved that in less than two years of its conception. Formed in December 2009, MESA is an offshoot of two large businesses, Masterplan and ReMedPar, which have been serving healthcare organisations in the US for over 35 years. In support of a five-year deal with the second largest imaging group in Europe, Euro Medic, MESA was created to be responsible for all service and parts contracts. To date, it is the only pan-European diagnostic imaging service provider delivering an independent maintenance service as well as parts and refurbished equipment. 
MESA’s origins lie in the US, where post-sale service maintenance and supply of parts has created a more progressive and less original equipment manufacturer(OEM)-dependent industry.  In comparison, the medical maintenance service industry in Europe is more traditional, with healthcare providers often tied to the OEM after point of sale. In Europe, approximately 85% of post-sale service is performed by the OEM whereas across the Atlantic, it is a different story altogether. For over 30 years, the US has developed a more mature and competitive market, which sees only 40–45% of post-sale service allocated to the OEM. The rest is outsourced to independent companies (35–40%) or performed in-house by hospitals (15–20%). Frost & Sullivan state that the two primary reasons for a more traditional business model in Europe are: multi-year service warranties, which are negotiated by OEMs at the time of the new capital purchase; and the absence of credible independent service operators (ISOs) as an alternative to OEM service.(1) The business model in the US, however, means that the end-user can benefit greatly, avoiding the cost pitfalls often associated with maintaining contracts with OEMs. 
Enter MESA, a full-service organisation, which not only has the advantage of being vendor-neutral and cost-effective but also has an ISO accreditation – an attractive quality for customers looking for a reliable and credible service. The ISO 13485 is a quality management standard for medical devices and related services and was accredited to MESA in April 2011, making it the first independent diagnostic imaging service parts and equipment company to receive it. In the same year, MESA also received the Competitive Strategy Innovation Award in Medical Equipment from Frost & Sullivan.
MESA’s Chief Executive, Rob Piconi, says that despite its US origins, MESA is a European company by foundation. Based in Lugano, Switzerland, the company was created in Europe and built locally in order to deliver a service that is designed specifically for European customers. 
“We built a team that is local and localised to the service delivery platform in every country – given that some countries have different regulations around diagnostic imaging service – while still aiming to provide a centralised, standardised service.”
And, selecting a country well renowned for its quality of healthcare and investment in medical technology was no coincidence. “We chose Switzerland for its centralised location and because it’s a high quality environment for development of solutions. We received our ISO in April, which typically only OEMs get, and so when introducing a new business model, the strategic choice was Switzerland.” 
MESA now services nine countries in Europe in alliance with Euro Medic, and 11 countries in total. The alliance also means that MESA can boast a system uptime greater than 98%. Furthermore, uptime guarantees is a contractual agreement between MESA and its clients. “It’s an important aspect in Europe”, says Piconi. “We want to help clients with their systems during evenings and weekends so that during the business day they can be back up and scanning. Customer up-time is a primary focus for us.”
What MESA does take from the US, however, is over 35 years’ worth of experience. Although it is a young company, MESA has the industry knowledge of an older company, and is fully aware of what is needed to operate a successful and competent maintenance service. “Scalability of engineers when delivering a multi-vendor service model is a challenge that we have learnt from the US,” says Piconi. “We ensure that we cross‑train our modality leaders to support the growth of the business here in Europe. We have created a centralised technical support team using our best MRI and CT engineers with the most experience in the field. We have made them modality leaders, putting them in a central support model.” MESA works across all OEMs and uses engineers that are OEM-trained, providing them with an ongoing training and development programme.
Customers can expect a premier service from MESA that is cost-effective and distinctively different to the service often provided by the OEM. MESA prides itself on its flexibility, which works around the customer’s schedule. It also makes information available to customers in real time using a web-based platform. One of the key elements of MESA is its use of IT. “We have a web-based tool called iDesk that we use to do all the day-to-day service management”, says Piconi. “This allows our service to be more transparent with information. We share specific data such as reports, failure modes and timing and we formally measure up-time so that we can offer our customers visibility in real time.” 
As a young but experienced company in an emerging market, MESA has a lot to offer existing and potential customers looking for a professional and beneficial maintenance service. MESA’s vision is to become the premier service delivery platform for diagnostic imaging in a multi-vendor environment for healthcare providers. This means that its focus is solely on service and nothing else. Customers can be assured that MESA will not attempt to sell new equipment or influence their decisions – instead, customers can simply expect the highest quality, fastest response time matched with the lowest cost service. Essentially, MESA ensures that customers experience lower off-sets, lower expenses and higher up-time for systems that are running – all supported by a foundation of outstanding quality. 
The future for MESA is equally promising. It plans to build a large training and equipment repair and refurbishment facility in Europe, which is another element homegrown in the US. MESA also plans to focus on the development of an enhanced IT tool, which will provide remote capabilities that will continue to increase the uptime percentage of customer equipment. 
“We want to use the latest technology development to assist us in not only responding when customers experience downtime but also moving to become more predictive – predictive maintenance solutions will ensure that equipment will never go down.” 
  1. Frost & Sullivan, Best Practices Research ‘Competitive Strategy Innovation, Medical Equipment Maintenance Services, Europe, 2011.