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We bought our house eight years ago this October. It was not quite a “fixer upper”, but we initially put a lot of effort into updating the inside, not even thinking about what was happening outside. It was winter, and it was snowing – a lot. Our driveway is long and more importantly steep. After multiple snow storms using the snow blower that was generously handed down to us by my parents, my husband suggested we needed a better solution. My father purchased that snow blower brand new in 1975, and it literally weighed more than my husband.

We decided to make an investment before the next winter and were faced with a handful of product options. There is the obvious choice to just buy a new snow blower, but how big and how much horsepower would we need? My husband used this as an opportunity to suggest purchasing a used vehicle with a plow (the conversation started as a new truck with plow). He also proposed a piece of heavy equipment such as a Kubota or front end loader, but I immediately put an end to those ideas as both are cost prohibitive and totally unnecessary. Cost is the first factor we considered, but we quickly identified time and which product would work the best as being equally important.

We needed to evaluate a few factors to determine which product would be the best fit. First, the type of snow is important– and it varies. There is the light & fluffy snow, heavy wet snow, snow that turns to rain, rain that turns to snow or a “mix” – that gross icy slush that generally freezes over if not removed promptly. We learned our lesson the hard way that first winter, and incurred a significant additional cost purchasing large volumes of sand & salt mix to treat our driveway turned ice skating rink.

There is the storm duration to consider. Sometimes, it is a quick blast and there are 6 inches of snow on the ground, or it can literally snow for days and the result can either be a few inches or a few FEET of snow. Timing of when the storm actually occurs is also a factor. If the storm occurs overnight or while at work, which product will allow for the most efficient clean up to avoid spending half the morning or night clearing snow?

A snow blower is best with the light fluffy snow which we most often do not get. The heavy and wet snow is okay for a snow blower, but would require a larger and more powerful one. That being said, a snow blower is essentially useless when there is a “mix” and a long duration storm would require multiple passes. The time spent clearing snow starts to get ridiculous compounded with the fact that there are decks, walkways, and roof raking to also be done.

While a used plow truck can be four times the expense of a snow blower, it can better handle the above criteria of various snow types and storm duration. The key factor for us was the reduced time actually spent removing snow. Also, there is heat inside a truck as opposed to the cold wind whipping across my husband’s face while snow blowing.

We ended up purchasing a reasonably priced used vehicle with a plow and looking back, it was definitely the correct decision. The hours of time saved to complete this task was well worth the extra expense. I am glad we made this decision by evaluating not just cost, but overall value including time and the most appropriate product. An unanticipated benefit of this decision was a revenue opportunity as my husband also regularly plows a handful of neighbors’ driveways. An additional bonus, our yellow lab is very happy riding alongside my husband while he plows!

Considering all the variables is an important principle when making product choices in healthcare. While there is an initial cost savings when purchasing a less expensive product, if price is the only variable considered, you may discover later on that the product is not appropriate for your patient mix, it increases nursing or operating room time, or it negatively impacts satisfaction. Sometimes, choosing the more expensively priced product may result in a lower cost per patient or procedure when you factor in time, quality, satisfaction and potential revenue. When decisions are made giving all these variables equal importance, the shift from focusing on price to focusing on total cost is being achieved!

Read Week 7: A Taste of Change

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