By Marla Kaminsky, AFS Community Expert
As the owner of a weight loss center and a distributor of body composition analyzers, I’ve watched the weight loss and fitness industry grow from using calipers and BMI to high tech equipment like bio impedance analyzers. Five years ago, few people had heard of BIA, now patients and clients expect this technology. It is my job to help business owners understand how to implement this technology, and other technology like it, in their unique business.
Full disclosure, I represent two BIA lines. My goal is not to sell you a unit but to share with you the insider knowledge I have, so you can break down the noise and make the best decision for your business, no matter what that is.
To start it's best to understand the value proposition. A value proposition is the value promised to YOU, the customer when they buy the product. It is often described as the one thing that determines if a potential customer will look further.
Important Value Propositions When Purchasing a BIA
- How accurate is the machine and what data do I get?
- How much does it cost and are there added fees?
- How much help will I get after my purchase?
How accurate is the machine and what data do I get?
When you buy a medical grade BIA device of ANY brand, you can assume it will have the technology to provide 95-99% accuracy compared to DEXA. All of the major manufacturers make this claim and it is true, to the best of my knowledge, in all cases. Each company is going to have its own research. Look at how current that research is and if it was commissioned by the manufacturer. From my experience, they all have similar accuracy.
The data provided from BIA devices can be overwhelming to compare. A side by side comparison of the different units (even different brands) is helpful to see which unit is going to meet your needs. A representative should send you their own and compare it to the competition. Sometimes you have to ask for it, don’t be shy.
How much does it cost and are there added fees?
Ask for the bottom line price and make sure it includes EVERYTHING you want. Some company’s include software, Bluetooth, wireless and some charge extra. Some company’s charge a monthly fee for software, which can add up quickly. Some companies negotiate more than others. Monthly incentives and promotions are also common, so while they should tell you, if they don’t—ASK!
Some companies will throw in small little things like a USB or a cheap stadiometer (for height). Usually, those things are worth a minimal amount, even if a high value is placed on it. I don’t recommend letting it drive the purchase.
Expect free shipping in the Continental US. One more expert tip, sometimes manufacturer’s need to sell one or two more units before the month or quarter close, if you are thinking of making a purchase, that can be an ideal time to get the best deal.
Some important questions to ask are:
- Is shipping included?
- What is the warranty? Do I need to buy an extended warranty?
- How much does the software cost?
- If the unit is Bluetooth or wireless enabled, is there a cost?
- Is there a charge for special paper?
- Are there any other fees I need to know about?
- Do you collect sales tax or do I pay use tax to my state?
When you buy a medical grade BIA device of ANY brand, you can assume it will have the technology to provide 95-99% accuracy compared to DEXA.
How much help will I get after my purchase?
Sales reps are going to help train you and get you comfortable, both with the machine and the science. If you don’t have prior knowledge of the data, there can be a steep learning curve before you are completely comfortable.
A few things to think about are:
- What level of experience does the person providing support have using the technology? Have they used it in practice or only sold it?
- Are they going to be able to troubleshoot the nuances? I can give you many examples where I’ve been called in a panic because something wasn’t working only to find out they had a date wrong or something else really small that could be overlooked by someone inexperienced or who hasn’t used the machine in practice.
- If the salesperson is your “support team,” I would ask how long they have been with the company and what is the average length of time someone is in their position. You don’t want to be left out in the cold in six months.
Value Propositions That Should Not Drive Your Purchase
So now that we’ve talked about what is important, let me share with you the few things I believe should not drive your purchase. These are statements that are vague and not concrete.
Claims about a company’s technology compared to another company.
No company has access to another company’s proprietary information. On top of that, each company is always improving and changing their technology. For example, there is a lot of noise about pre-loaded data or predictive equations. This is what I know.
- As a distributor, educated in more than one line, I know of more than one company uses an algorithm that does not use preloaded data.
- Courts have determined it is misleading to imply that predictive equations make a unit better or worse than the competition and it should not be used for marketing purposes.*
- The validity of a unit’s accuracy is to DEXA, not to the competitor’s unit. I’ve tested multiple manufacturer’s units against a DEXA. They all have similar accuracy. Keep in mind a five-frequency unit is going to have better accuracy than a two-frequency unit. It is also going to cost a lot more.
Market share or implied relationships
Some of the best products, in any category, are newer to market, and simply don’t have the market share. If a company does claims to have a formal relationship with an institution or company to build credibility, and this is important to you, ask for further information to ensure it is accurate and current.
Deciding what type of bio impedance analyzer to buy and how much can spend can be daunting. Spending more doesn’t always get you more. You have to identify what is important to you and buy what works for you. At the end of the day, the device is just equipment, it is how you implement from a business and clinical perspective that will ensure your success.
While this hasn’t yet been litigated in the US yet, this decision has been held up in Germany. There is also pending litigation in other countries. (BIA’s popularity is fairly recent in the US, while it has been used in other counties longer.)
Marla Kaminsky is the owner of Spartan Wellness Technology. Ms. Kaminsky has extensive knowledge in the implementation of bio impendence analysis in the fitness and wellness industry. Her expertise extends into training and educating individuals and business owners in how fitness testing can improve member engagement and revenue.