The used devices solution
Business View Magazine interviews Jeff Dalton, CEO of relink Medical, for our focus on Innovations in Health Care
Projected to grow to an incredible $208 billion by 2023, North America’s medical device market size was $168.76 billion in 2020. This market is typically well structured with well-defined supply chain components that move devices smoothly from origin to end-user. However, once these devices reach end-of-service, break down, or are scheduled to be replaced, most end up stacked up in hospital basements, storage warehouses, and other dead ends. In short, there is no equivalent supply chain to dispose of used medical devices effectively.
reLink Medical, based in Twinsburg, Ohio, is solving this challenge by creating a tech-enabled solution to drive actionable intelligence, proactive planning, and downstream efficiencies. As co-founder and CEO Jeff Dalton explains, the path to founding reLink Medical came from realizing that hospitals simply do not know what to do with old medical devices once they get newer ones.
“We’ve been in the medical devices industry for over 20 years each,” says Dalton, referring to himself and Gregory Hemphill, VP of Enterprise Sales at reLink Medical. “Over that time, we helped hospitals buy, service, maintain, and track equipment parts and service in a more effective way. At one point, we found a void in what a hospital does when they need to upgrade a piece of equipment or find something new. For context, the average 250-bed hospital is actively trying to manage 2,000 medical devices that have come to end-of-life status.” Focused on patient care, hospitals are not set up to sell things, run recycling operations, or value equipment. The result is that most hospitals have vast warehouses and storage areas filled with used medical devices that they simply do not have the capital, manpower, or space to deal with.
Dalton started reLink Medical in 2016 and Hemphill joined in 2019. reLink Medical provides an integrated solution that streamlines multiple moving pieces like physically moving devices, managing environmental issues, electronic patient health information (ePHI), biohazardous material, radiation, and post-disposal financing. Moving away from their current traditional, decentralized approach, healthcare systems leverage the power of technology, analytics, and infrastructure with tech-enabled medical asset management solutions. reLink Medical’s program ensures their partners make data-driven decisions, increasing operational efficiency and creating a revenue stream on capital equipment.
“Since it is no one’s full-time job at the hospital to think about these issues, we took it upon ourselves to handle end-of-life devices for various hospital departments,” says Dalton. “Looking at the gaps in this process, we’ve created a solution that perfectly maps onto existing hospital processes, including logistics, device tracking, biohazard management, and post-sale payments.”
What makes reLink Medical’s service unique is they do everything for the hospital. Unlike other services that only catalog and market the devices, reLink handles the equipment and catalogs it, undertaking the marketing, sales, and fulfillment alongside the hospital. “Our solution is the ‘easy button’ for hospitals because we’ve built a well-integrated service that compliments and improves the hospital’s current disposition initiatives,” states Dalton.
An ISO-9001 certified company, reLink Medical has grown tremendously over the last five years, winning both local and national awards, including a top spot on the 2021 Inc. 5000 list. With 75 current employees, it has aggressive growth planned over the next few quarters. “We are growing fast, both vertically and horizontally,” says Dalton. “Vertically, we are adding new customers and services to our core business, and horizontally, hospitals are increasingly asking us for more solutions within the scope of what we are doing.”
reLink Medical is looking for talented and enthusiastic individuals to join the company and support its growth. “We have a compelling business case and opportunity and we’re looking to find hungry, aggressive, and passionate people that want to join a growing team,” explains Dalton. Hemphill echoes his sentiments. “Our business offers the unique opportunity to do good. We have returned over $50 million to healthcare networks on a revenue share model, providing hospitals with more cash for their operations while growing our bottom line.”
As part of onboarding new employees, reLink Medical has an in-house training program that teaches the company’s corporate culture, values, mission, and vision. They also offer department-level training to new employees, which Dalton says is “necessary for such a unique business. The reality is that our business is so unique we cannot just post a job saying we need five years’ experience on repurposing medical devices. We, instead, look for people with synergistic skills and experience and train them in the specifics of our business and industry.”
reLink Medical’s operations currently cover market territories east of the Mississippi, supported by dual logistics centers of excellence in Twinsburg, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia. “We are focused on this territory because we rely on logistics and people to deliver our solutions,” explains Dalton. “The company’s processes require a physical presence including our people and our trucks, so our growth and regional expansion must be very strategic to maintain unparalleled service to our customers.”
Hemphill further elaborates. “For example, with the reLink360 program, our core disposition solution, we pick up 100% of their medical devices. Using our people and our dedicated fleet of trucks, we take everything back to one of our facilities and catalog the equipment, capturing the serial number, asset ID, the functional and cosmetic condition of the device, and take pictures. We immediately add them to our multichannel selling platform linked to a network of 12,000 worldwide buyers. We also have salespeople and product managers who drive direct sales alongside multiple e-commerce and auction channels. The product is then sold, with a portion of the proceeds returned back to the hospital to use however they see fit.”
These processes run in a combined 135,000 square feet of facilities at both logistics centers of excellence and help the company process upwards of 10,000 pieces of medical devices every month. Over 2.5 million pounds of medical equipment is recycled each year, sustainably keeping end-of-life devices out of landfills.
In addition to selling the equipment, reLink Medical also works with over one hundred global health organizations to donate used medical devices to places in the world that most need them. “We are currently supporting Haiti by collaborating with mission projects that deliver devices and also develop local capacity to maintain, repair, and refurbish the devices,” says Dalton. All these efforts are supported through a network of partners and suppliers central to the company’s operations, including trucking and logistics, certifications, recycling, and data and analytics. “Our employees, partners, vendors, and buyers are all part of our community, and we are very grateful for their participation in achieving our global objectives,” Dalton adds.
At no time were these partnerships more critical than at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Hospitals were overwhelmed with patients, which forced them repurpose existing storage and hospital spaces into spaces for COVID-19 patient care. This changed where they stored used and decommissioned equipment, how they replaced old equipment, and how incoming equipment was maintained,” recounts Dalton. “With this landscape, we provided additional services to many of these hospitals, helping free up space to allow hospitals and healthcare systems to treat more patients. During that time, we helped hospitals overcome device shortages by acting as a critical supply chain resource.”
Dalton admits it was his team that deserves all the accolades. “As CEO, it was amazing to see the team step up, make decisions, solve problems, and do things that they’ve never done before. Like every other business, we were not set up to run COVID operations. Still, within days, we rolled out COVID-19 safety protocols company-wide and set up all our warehouses to handle COVID-19 medical equipment. It was impressive to see our employees step up and say, ‘I got it. Let me figure this out.’”
For the future, Hemphill is focused on expanding the footprint with reLink Medical’s current partners and building the robust framework to support a national presence. Dalton’s vision is to grow the company into the country’s largest equipment disposition solution provider. He notes, “We are bullish about offering a better solution to healthcare providers and becoming a key resource to our hospital partners.” He plans to focus on three crucial growth levers: recruiting and training the best people, strategic expansion, and leveraging technology and analytics. “Growing these three components together is what will define the reLink Medical difference,” he concludes.
AT A GLANCE
What: A provider of orderly disposition solutions for hospitals’ end-of-life medical equipment
Where: Based in Twinsburg, Ohio