By David Stevens, vice president of clinical asset management, TRIMEDX
More than 6,000 hospitals operate across the United States, and each has thousands if not tens of thousands of clinical assets such as ventilators and imaging machines. Managing, monitoring, repairing, and disposing of this equipment can become a herculean task.
Any missteps are problematic. They can fuel unnecessary spending, compromise patient care, and sap both the time and spirits of hospital staff. TRIMEDX’s health provider surveys indicate that nurses spend up to an hour each shift trying to find equipment or verify its cleanliness.
Avoiding such troubles begins with identifying your vulnerabilities within your asset management system. Healthcare systems struggle with clinical asset management in four key areas.
The Lack of Inventory Visibility
Struggles with clinical asset management often stem from the lack of “a single source of truth” — that is, a single centralized system of keeping inventory. As a result, no one knows the exact number of a hospital’s clinical assets. TRIMEDX has found that many hospitals and health systems have medical device inventories that vary by as much as 40% from the actual number on hand, which is a staggering volume when you consider each staffed bed relies on an average of 15 to 20 devices.
This lack of visibility can prove critical. A robust medical device inventory is the foundational component by which many other decisions are made and the linchpin to making data-driven strategic decisions on planning and spending.
Visibility is essential at the overall inventory level and specifically with each medical device. Clarity is necessary on a host of considerations. Among them:
- How many devices do you have?
- Where are my devices located?
- Is there an outstanding patch or unresolved FDA recall?
- How old is the device?
- What is its repair history?
- How often am I using my devices?
Gathering the information you need, however, can prove challenging. Merging hospital and health networks can lead to disparate inventory systems lacking clear channels of communication and easy information exchange. And while hospital technology has matured in some areas —such as pharmaceutical management — a robust, centralized inventory system for tracking medical devices often sits lower on the priority list.
That lack of inventory visibility directly contributes to the second common pain point for hospitals and health systems struggling with clinical asset management.
A blind spot for hospitals is not just the lack of clearly knowing how many devices they have but also how many of those devices are being used and how often. Some devices, such as pulse oximeters or portable X-ray machines, can see daily use. Others may see less frequent use. And some equipment may sit ignored in storage.
Utilization uncertainty can unnecessarily drain capital funds when decision-makers remain unclear about which devices a hospital really needs to purchase or rent. According to utilization monitoring data, most health systems use their medical devices only about 50% of the time.
Utilization certainty, on the other hand, presents an opportunity, which is reflected in the third common pain point for clinical asset management.
A Subjective Approach to Capital Planning
A lack of visibility into clinical assets also can limit critical information needed to make strategic equipment purchase decisions, which can result in unnecessary expenses. Purchasing decisions can be made based on personal preferences of a department head, anecdotal evidence, or other subjective standards. An objective approach to capital planning, however, is driven by data.
Many considerations can help guide decisions on whether to replace, upgrade, dispose of, or reallocate equipment. Factors such as device utilization, cybersecurity risk, downtime, repair events, remaining years of useful life, and parts availability can help prioritize, reduce, and defer expenditures according to budget needs and available resources.
For example, consider when a health system knows it has more devices than it needs at one site but a shortage of the same devices at a second site. With full visibility into available assets, an administrator could reallocate surplus devices to the site in need of them rather than spend valuable capital on buying or renting additional equipment.
A clinical asset management solution designed to facilitate the quick assessment of such criteria helps systems prioritize their spending needs and extend the life of their existing equipment.
A clinical asset management solution is an invaluable tool, but it is only a tool. Its success hinges on having good structures and processes in place to ensure adoption, accountability, transparency, and responsiveness. The lack of good governance is the fourth pain point, and it can hamstring the best software solutions.
When implementing a clinical asset management solution, health systems must clearly define roles and identify those with the authority to make decisions during the process.
Establishing a governance council is one approach. A council can establish committees to boost collaboration, institute a structure that defines a central point person for accountability, and move the management of medical devices from a reactive break/fix mentality to proactive program maturity that elevates medical devices as strategic levers across the healthcare system.
This collaborative approach to clinical asset management enables health systems to become more focused, prepared, and aligned on how they deliver care. A governance council can:
- Support consistent regulatory and safety standards for medical devices.
- Improve financial health by managing inventory to reduce or delay capital expenditures and reduce operating expenditures.
- Boost employee satisfaction by ensuring the availability of devices.
- Enhance patient care by delivering more timely care.
Benefits Beyond Dollars Saved
In 2022, healthcare systems face heightened difficulties. Personnel shortages now top the list of hospital CEO concerns, according to a survey released in February by the American College of Healthcare Executives. Financial challenges, which had ranked No. 1 since 2004, remain top of mind, though, at second place.
Smarter clinical asset management can play a part in addressing such concerns. A comprehensive clinical asset management solution can provide medical device visibility and utilization data to make objective, strategic decisions while an established system of governance can shepherd efforts and help ensure success.
Together they can curb expenses, boost profitability, reduce patient risk, and improve clinician satisfaction.
Editor’s Note: An experienced leader in the clinical asset management industry, David Stevens serves as TRIMEDX’s vice president of clinical asset management. In this role, David oversees the deployment and support of Clinical Asset Informatics, manages a team of CAM Strategic Advisors, and supports Mobile Medical Equipment management services and surplus equipment disposition and auctions with Centurion Service Group: A TRIMEDX Company. He is a board-certified fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a member of both the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. David earned an MBA from Wake Forest University and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Ferris State University. He also completed a Six Sigma Black Belt and Lean Certification from Villanova University.