By LeAnne Hester, chief marketing and solutions officer, TRIMEDX
The pandemic has upended health care amid a time of rapid change. Nurses and other frontline workers will need different support to do their jobs well and minimize burnout. Health systems and hospitals will need to shift how they seek efficiencies as the delivery of health care changes. And cybersecurity will demand a stepped-up approach from a team of experts because the threats and costs are only escalating.
Here is what’s ahead for hospitals and healthcare systems leaning into their clinical asset management strategy to navigate the broader dynamics changing health care.
Healthcare providers will seek out new areas for savings as care strategies shift
The need for cost control only accelerated during the pandemic. But as healthcare providers seek new ways to curb expenses, the false promises of sweeping financial improvement initiatives across all departments should be avoided.
Why are such efforts a false promise? Because the efficiencies envisioned are difficult to obtain. Department leaders can struggle to lead broadly targeted efforts and own the results. A better approach is to zero in on specific areas, where management buy-in and the control of project variables are easier to obtain.
Medical device inventory management is one such specific area to target. As the delivery of health care shifts to home-based services, clinics, and outpatient surgery centers, the investment into and reallocation of inventory is key. Home-based services are expected to see a 15% increase in patient services by 2029, according to healthcare industry analyst Sg2’s 2021 Impact of Change Forecast. Doctors’ offices and clinics will see 18% growth. And ambulatory surgery centers are expected to experience 25% patient growth.
Buying new equipment to serve the increasing demand at alternate sites of care could be a misstep. Hospital device inventories are often above patient volume benchmarks and underused. Rather than buy new, hospitals can reallocate some of the assets they have to other sites of care. Inventory visibility and utilization data, of course, are required here. Health systems need an accurate inventory of the devices they have, a benchmark of what number of devices are necessary to support patient volumes, and the degree of utilization of those devices.
Such strategic management of medical devices through a clinical engineering program can provide a health system some financial relief. Clinical assets account for 25% of health system capital expenses. The opportunity is evident to find substantial savings — dollars that can be spent on other initiatives such as capital improvements or staff satisfaction.
Hospitals will recognize how medical device management can help reduce nursing burnout
About a year after the pandemic began, the American Nurses Foundation conducted a comprehensive survey to learn more about the overall mental health and well-being of U.S. nurses. What it found was grim, particularly for younger people, the future of the profession. Among nurses 34 years and younger, 81% reported feeling exhausted, 71% reported feeling overwhelmed, and 65% reported being anxious or unable to relax.
As 2021 wore on, many nurses planned to quit the profession. A study for the American Nurses Association released in mid-October indicated that 21% of respondents planned to quit in the next six months and an additional 29% said they might, too.
Frontline workers such as nurses are burned out. And when they quit, critical staffing shortages worsen, which creates critical patient care challenges. Hospitals struggle to keep the staff they have, and add supplemental support, amid ongoing financial constraints.
While medical device management isn’t a cure-all for these challenges, it is a simple and effective means to eliminate nursing frustrations. Nurses who spend too much time on administrative items rather than patient care become dissatisfied with their job. TRIMEDX research has found that most nurses spend 45 to 60 minutes per shift trying to find equipment or ensuring it is clean prior to use. An accurate clinical asset inventory along with a system to ensure devices are clean and available can go a long way toward giving nurses more time to spend on care. Nursing satisfaction scores have jumped 50% when such processes are implemented.
The strategic management of medical devices with an eye toward asset utilization can help here, too. By analyzing utilization data, clinical engineering teams can shift equipment to the locations in which it is needed while maintaining par levels and avoiding the need to rent equipment. These operational expense savings can be allocated to nurse staffing expenses, boosting pay or hiring additional help, or both.
Medical device cybersecurity will become more holistic
Connected medical devices present potential risks for healthcare providers, a consistent and growing target of cyberattacks.
Ransomware attacks on hospitals increased 123% in the past year, according to the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. The percentage of healthcare breaches caused by connected devices, according to the Ponemon Institute report “The Impact of Ransomware on Healthcare During COVID-19 and Beyond,” is now equal to the percentage of breaches caused by phishing.
Status quo cybersecurity is insufficient for 2022 and beyond. In particular, medical device cybersecurity requires a multifaceted approach beyond the technology of monitoring and detection. It requires expertise and proven processes to ensure remediation and the reduction of overall risk.
The process of securing medical devices begins with an accurate inventory and profile of the devices. An accurate profile includes an understanding of whether a vulnerability is present, whether an approved patch is available, and how the device is being used. If the device is connected to the network, its activity needs to be monitored for suspicious behavior, a task handled by a cybersecurity team with an IoT platform or, increasingly, by a third-party security operations center (SOC).
Remediation requires a collective effort among clinical engineering, information technology, and cybersecurity teams. A SOC might identify a threat, but the clinical engineering team has the expertise to either install a patch validated by the device manufacturer or partner with IT to deploy a compensating control when a patch isn’t available, such as disabling a service on the device or enabling encryption. This partnership ensures equipment is available and safe for patient care.
Healthcare providers face another challenging year. Staff shortages, cybersecurity threats, COVID-19 surges, and shifting models of care will underscore the need to find relief where relief can be found. Optimizing and management of clinical assets across the health system provides an opportunity to help allay some of these challenges while supporting larger transformation efforts.
Editor’s Note: LeAnne Hester serves as the chief marketing and solutions officer for TRIMEDX. In this role, she is responsible for identifying, developing, and commercializing innovative products and services to expand TRIMEDX solutions to meet the evolving needs of the healthcare industry. In addition, she leads the company’s marketing strategy, including market research, branding, and communications. LeAnne’s extensive healthcare industry experience includes working for and with providers, payers, government agencies, and consulting and technology firms. Previous experience includes leadership positions at Premier Inc., Leidos Health, The Advisory Board, and Anthem. LeAnne began her career in healthcare with a provider at Community Health Network in Indianapolis.