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How Health Systems Can Gain Valuable Insights and Cost Savings Through a Comprehensive Clinical Asset Management Evaluation | By Kristi McDermott, chief operating officer, TRIMEDX

Clinical Asset Management Evaluation

Health system decision-makers continue to search for ways to better serve patients, while dealing with razor-thin operating margins, rising costs, and worker shortages. One way for health system executives to identify opportunities & next steps for savings, risk reduction, and operational excellence is to have an in-depth understanding of clinical assets. To achieve this understanding, a health system should conduct a comprehensive clinical asset management evaluation. This evaluation will provide executives with valuable insights and recommendations, empowering them to enhance the organization’s long-term effectiveness, safety, and cost-efficiency.

Health systems often struggle to decide how to begin this process. They should focus on four key areas to get a well-rounded evaluation of their current state: clinical engineering financials, clinical engineering operations, clinical asset management, and cybersecurity.

Clinical engineering financials 

Health systems are often spending significantly more than they realize on clinical engineering related expenses–typically 30 to 40% more, according to TRIMEDX data. A critical aspect of any comprehensive evaluation is figuring out how much the organization is truly spending to maintain the clinical assets used to deliver patient care. This analysis should include service contracts, workforce salaries, benefit costs, and additional repair & maintenance expenses across all departments. It’s often challenging to track clinical engineering expenses because they are widely dispersed across multiple departments within each facility. This lack of system-wide visibility can hinder health systems from controlling costs.

Health systems must also examine their historical spending, service contract terms & conditions, and service delivery strategies to gain an accurate understanding of their clinical engineering costs.

While it may seem daunting to conduct such a thorough assessment, it will allow executives to have clear visibility into existing contracts, identify cost-saving opportunities, and optimize their current & future clinical engineering related expenses.

Clinical engineering operations

It’s equally important to comprehend all the existing clinical engineering operations across the health system. This should include service strategy management, regulatory readiness, service request & dispatching, team composition, parts procurement, and adherence to computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) standards.

Many health systems lack standardized processes and procedures across all departments, leaving room for error and confusion. For example, some technicians may receive direct calls for repair requests instead of centrally routing all requests through a single source. When requests are routed through a single source, response time will likely improve, and potential service gaps should be limited. Another problematic issue could be technicians not utilizing the CMMS consistently. This can undermine trust in response time, turnaround time, and regulatory metrics.

Without digging into existing processes and procedures and uncovering how staff is adhering to them, health systems won’t get a realistic picture of their operations.

Once health systems extensively assess this area, they can spot opportunities for improvement, optimize processes, and ensure clinical engineering teams are operating efficiently and effectively.  They can strive to reinforce best practices, provide formalized training, and invest in resources to ensure data accuracy and reliability. This will ultimately enhance patient care and increase worker satisfaction as well as present cost-savings for the health system.

Clinical asset management

Clinical assets account for an average of 25% of a health systems’ capital expenses annually. At a time when half of health care systems are deferring capital expenditures to offset the long-term financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical for health systems to gain visibility of their medical equipment and device inventory.

Inventory inaccuracies present a major hurdle for health systems attempting to maximize the value of their clinical assets. Organizations frequently have more inventory than they need, but don’t know where a device is located, how often it’s used, or when it needs to be serviced or replaced. Health systems must investigate existing inventory and utilization to establish a baseline of what devices it owns and what devices it truly needs.

After establishing that baseline, health systems will be able to implement a clinical asset management strategy, giving them access to valuable information and data to help them make smart purchasing decisions instead of basing them on personal preferences or anecdotal evidence.

In addition to owned equipment, health systems must have a firm grasp of what equipment they’re renting and how much they’re spending to do so. TRIMEDX has found health systems often misperceive their spending on rental equipment by more than 50%. This is why it’s important for a comprehensive evaluation to closely examine all rental equipment usage and spending. When organizations uncover how much they are spending on rental equipment and establish their actual rental needs, they will be able to build a centralized rental management system to continue to assess true rental needs, manage preferred vendors, and properly track equipment & spending.

Cybersecurity risks

It’s vital for health systems to have an accurate view of their cyber risk to protect themselves against cyberattacks that could disrupt patient care. Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations increased by 86% in 2022 from the year prior and the number of connected medical devices continues to rise, providing cybercriminals more potential entry points to the health system’s network. The U.S. government has warned infected medical devices could have “catastrophic impact to hospital operations and patient care.”

When conducting a cybersecurity assessment, health systems should foster collaboration between clinical engineering and information technology teams to identify devices on the network, identify existing threats, and prioritize & mitigate the threats. One report indicates there is an average of 6.2 vulnerabilities per medical device. This reinforces the importance of having an accurate and clear view of an organization’s clinical asset inventory.

Health systems should also closely examine what cybersecurity programs, policies, and procedures are in place throughout various departments, and implement a standardized protocol to best protect patients and the health system.

A systemwide, comprehensive evaluation is a crucial step toward gaining an in-depth and accurate understanding of clinical assets. By evaluating clinical engineering financials & operations, clinical asset management, and cybersecurity risks a health system can discover what is holding them back and develop a plan to move forward more efficiently and effectively.

In many cases, the best way to conduct an unbiased evaluation is by working with a manufacturer-agnostic, independent organization. An outside partner with industry experience and a proven track record will be able to conduct a thorough clinical asset management evaluation, and use those findings to develop & implement integrated, systemwide, scalable solutions to set the health system up for long-term success.

Editor’s Note:  Kristi McDermott serves as the chief operating officer for TRIMEDX. McDermott has been with TRIMEDX since 2018 after the company acquired Aramark Healthcare Technologies and has served as chief commercial officer and president of clinical engineering during that time. She has been in the healthcare industry for over 30 years and in the healthcare technologies industry for 14 years. McDermott earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University and a master’s in business administration from Maryville University in St. Louis. 

 

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