Toolkits

Video Otoscopes - Deployment and Support

The deployment of equipment can be made significantly easier if proper planning activities take place prior to actually shipping the gear out to sites.  Cutting corners before sending video otoscopes to the field can cause your program to incur costs later on, with unhappy customers frustrated with their products and a support staff that is putting out fires. It is critical to take some time for planning before even thinking about calling a vendor to place an order for equipment.

Planning

Think through how the end sites will be supported by your organization.  Regardless of whether individual sites will be making purchases, or if all purchases will be made in a single order, there is a need to establish a baseline of standardized equipment, required consumables, and intended support system.

  • How many video otoscopes need to go to each site? Will every end site have their own camera, or will it vary on an organization-by-organization basis?
  • Will sites need to purchase their own specula for their otoscopes?  Are they the same specula as used on existing otoscopes?  How many will they need?
  • If an otoscope breaks, will it be shipped back to a central program office for replacement and warranty work, or will the individual sites be responsible for contacting the vendor or manufacturer?
  • If video otoscopes wear out or break, will the program office have the capacity to provide a replacement device?  How many replacement otoscopes can you afford to have in stock?
  • Will the program office establish standard settings for the otoscopes before sending them to the sites?  This can help troubleshooting down the road, but has an up-front cost to configure each otoscope.  If individual sites are purchasing their own otoscopes, will there be a guide created to explain the preferred settings?
  • How many spare bulbs will be needed at each site?  Who will be responsible for replacing these bulbs?  Will organizations be responsible for their own preventative maintenance with this equipment?

Purchasing

With the planning out of the way, it is now time to make purchasing decisions.  Depending on the answers to the above questions, this may be as simple as telling the sites to find an otoscope on their own.  There are often benefits to purchasing devices in bulk, and there may be a way to get discounts if purchasing a high-enough quantity of video otoscopes.  Try to establish a relationship with the vendors and resellers.
 
A healthy relationship with an otoscope manufacturer or reseller can be rather beneficial at times.  Aside from the possible financial benefits, it may be possible to discuss any opportunities to get extended warranties for sites or to set up a service plan that meets your organizational needs.  It may also be possible to help influence future designs in otoscopes, as the manufacturers may listen to large customers in this relatively-small field.

Deployment

Talking with the end sites is critical when planning a deployment.  If key information is not passed along, equipment may wind up sitting in a warehouse or loading dock, or, even worse, may go to the wrong location.  Getting the end sites involved in deployment planning early can make sure everyone knows what to expect, and can mitigate feelings that the otoscopes are just being “dumped” on the sites.
 
If the video otoscopes are all being received by a central program office, temporary warehouse or storage space may be needed, depending on the number of otoscopes being received.  Being able to dedicate space to the receiving and staging of video otoscopes can be beneficial, as it keeps other activities from impeding various deployment processes.
 
Significantly more staging room may be required if the video otoscopes will be tested or configured prior to deployment.  Clear areas should be established for otoscopes that are ready to ship, and devices that are awaiting configuration.  Ensure that all necessary components of the video otoscopes make it back into the box, as well as any additional consumables, connectors, or products that will be deployed with with otoscope.

Support

Depending on formal or informal service level agreements with the end sites, support may be a non-issue for a central office.  That said, a mechanism for reporting problems in the end sites should be available.  If sites are having issues with the otoscope, it can be important to know what the problem is and where it is located.  Is the video otoscope too difficult to use? Are certain populations of patients finding the otoscope to be uncomfortable?  Are some groups having a hard time capturing sufficiently clear images? This may require additional user training.  Is the otoscope wearing out?  Are bulbs regularly failing?  Widespread reports of this may be a sign that the otoscopes are in need of maintenance.
 
Work with the sites when the video otoscopes first arrive.  Ask if there are any problems or issues with the devices, and, if possible, ask for test images to be sent for review.  This allows a central project office to ensure that the otoscopes have been received, unpacked, and used by the end sites.  Any problems can be identified immediately and resolved quickly.

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