Watch your assets! In healthcare delivery this has always been true and, with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, there is a more pressing need than ever before to be smart about the systems you buy for the long run.

Siemens Healthcare has a program it calls Installed Base Management, which is basically a holistic plan for conserving imaging systems and updating in an intelligent and cost effective way. At RSNA2012, I sat down with Sabine Duffy-Sandstrom, a Siemens VP in the Customer Solutions Group, and one of her customers, Jim Sapienza, administrator of imaging services at Tacoma, Wash.-based MultiCare. I had to admit that it seemed odd to be discussing managing existing systems rather than the latest and greatest thing since sliced bread -- a RSNA hallmark.

“We have customers who want to replace systems because they’ve gotten old, we have customers who want to add options to their current systems -- they have different ways they want to maximize their systems,” said Duffy. “It’s really about rather than selling them something, asking them what’s your plan? So we offer something we call a Customer Development Session. We use econometrics to examine the lay of the geographic area with population, institutions and outlook for disease. We also offer utilization management that examines the type of exams being done and their frequency. So we can use how the customer uses his assets and what the demand might be.

“The third component is what the customer wants to do, what their mission may be to add programs or whatever,” she continued. “What comes out in the end is an asset management plan, usually a three- to five-year plan. And we offer this for free. But it isn’t Siemens trying to sell something necessarily; it can mean combining systems, eliminating assets or replacing one. When something changes in the reimbursement landscape, like Obamacare, people now are assessing whether they have the right mix of systems and do I need to upgrade. It’s also not just capability of systems, it’s staffing. You want your techs to be able to run any new systems, or upgraded ones.”

Siemens did a Customer Development Session with MultiCare Health Systems, which has five hospitals south of Seattle, a medical group of 400 physicians and which partners with three radiology groups. “We looked at equipment utilization and econometrics of demand for services and worked together to see what is needed,” said Sapienza. “Now we have monthly conversations that are not about Siemens trying to sell us things, but what are the needs and what are the solutions that Siemens can offer.

“A good example,” Sapienza continued “is with CT and MRI. The machines are workhorses and as long as you maintain them well and update components, the core guts of the machines can last a long time without having to swap in a whole new machine. Our health system can no longer sustain changing machines every five years.” He added that the conversations are also about whether all the various systems are being utilized in a cost-effective way.

Duffy said the program is a win-win. Customers are retained with smart evaluations and when new equipment is needed, Siemens has solutions at hand. By using some optimizing techniques, MultiCare has been able to save money on replacement costs. “Plus the conversations we’ve been having for the past few years, we’ve been anticipating now what’s happening in health care reform now,” Sapienza. “Instead of billing on volume, we are billing for value.”

“Everybody talks about asset management these days,” Duffy opined, “but we are really doing it.”