Repair business enjoys steady growth

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

VALPARAISO, Ind. - Former paramedic Dave Bucko wanted to remain in the healthcare field when he sought a career change. He found his opportunity at Medical Equipment and Diagnostics Repair, a division of American Medical Oxygen Sales based in Valparaiso, Ind.
"I've always had mechanical inclination," said Bucko. "The bench tech type of position fits me perfectly."
American consolidated its three separate in-house repair divisions in 2005 to improve efficiency and continuity of repairs, said Rob Newell, manager. With some advertising and word of mouth, business is booming. Most business comes from contracts for repairs and onsite maintenance with nursing homes and other homecare companies and organizations. Walk-ins are about 5% of the business.
"It's something we've always done, now we're just lending our expertise to other companies out there," said Newell. "I think the need for it is going to continue to grow."
With six different factory DME repair certificates under his belt and a new designation as a Respironics factory authorized service center, Bucko fixes just about anything
"The biggest problem is lack of maintenance," said Bucko. "It's probably the killer on 80% of the equipment that comes in here."
The benefits to routine maintenance seem obvious--a filter costs from $3.50 to $20 and can greatly extend the life of a $700 concentrator.
Rick Perrotta, president of Network Medical Supply says 25% of his business volume is repairs on wheelchairs and hospital beds, and unlike many providers, he welcomes the business. Do enough of it and providers can carve out a profitable sideline; warranty work is barely profitable--if that--but just part of the mix, said Perrotta.
With more people purchasing their own equipment, Newell said, the repairs business continues to grow. Medical Equipment and Diagnostics Repair aims to get its share by making equipment maintenance as easy as possible. Like Perrotta, the company follows up with customers regularly. Turnaround time for repairs averages two weeks, but Bucko can work faster.
"I just did a repair for a double amputee," he said. "They brought it in the morning, and I was able to turn it around and give it back to him three to four hours later. The guy has no hope without it."
That dedication to customer service is where it's at, says Bucko.
"I've found you get farther with a very honest approach," said Bucko. "But if something belongs in the dumpster, I have no problem telling them to not put a dime into it."