Every day, 1-in-31 U.S. hospital patients contract an infection associated with their hospital care. Healthcare-associated infections (HAI) have high morbidity and mortality, and the top five infection causes cost the healthcare system $9.8 billion annually. As health systems explore approaches to decrease that number, one strategy to consider is a mobile medical equipment management (MME) program.
Mobile Medical Equipment (MME) is utilized by nearly every hospital patient and moves throughout the facility, creating the potential to carry harmful bacteria and/or bioburden and cause infections. MME—like infusion pumps, feeding pumps, and sequential compression devices—makes up 90% of a typical healthcare facility’s equipment. These machines are often hard to locate and challenging to keep clean, but they are vital for patient care.
Implementing an MME management program can improve device cleanliness and enhance care efficiency, both of which can contribute to reduced HAI. The impact on patient safety doesn’t stop at infection prevention—the program lessens nurse burnout and turnover and maximizes the availability and usage of MME.
The harms of suboptimal mobile medical equipment management
The lack of a standard MME management program costs time and money and impacts patient health and experience in several ways.
The devices’ mobility and high utilization expose them to various contaminants, and a lack of proper sanitization can spread those germs to other patients, potentially causing infections. Up to 40% of mobile medical devices fail objective cleanliness testing between patient uses.
It is impossible to tell which devices are clean and which are dirty by simply looking at them. Lack of process enables clinicians to inadvertently grab soiled equipment as they scramble to return to their patients.
Inefficient care delivery and nurse burnout
TRIMEDX data reveals that nurses spend between 45 and 60 minutes searching, cleaning, and retrieving equipment — which is estimated to cost hospitals more than $11,000 per nurse per year based on salary data from NSI Nursing Solutions.
While nurses are moving about the hospital looking for medical equipment, they are taking time away from patient care. This contributes to several problems. First, patients may not be receiving the care they expect. With nurses leaving the patient bedside to retrieve equipment, patients must wait for the treatment they need, delaying patient care and potentially presenting a risk to patient safety. Patient care is the priority of nurses and health systems, and anything that takes away from one-to-one patient interaction is an issue to address.
Second, nurses joined the healthcare workforce to care for patients. The time and effort spent on non-patient-oriented tasks, such as searching for mobile equipment, creates frustration contributing to nurse burnout and turnover.
Staffing shortages are the number one concern for healthcare executives and a significant threat to patient safety.
- A Hospital IQ survey reveals 72% of nurses were already experiencing burnout before the pandemic. COVID-19 only increased the workload, pressure, and challenges.
- 92% of nurses are experiencing a staffing shortage in their facility, according to Nursegrid.
- Hospital IQ also found 43% of nurses report increased administrative work and time away from the bedside due to staffing shortages.
- An Incredible Health report shows that 34% of nurses plan to leave their jobs by the end of 2022; a third of those expect to leave the nursing field entirely.
Nurses also report an increase in the patient-to-staff ratio, making it crucial for health system leaders to explore any solution that alleviates nurse workload and frees up time for patient care. MME management is one way to accomplish that goal.
Poor medical device management leads to poor utilization and increased costs. Hospitals use about 45% of their equipment on an average day, and that rate only reaches 70% on a busy day. The unused equipment costs money to maintain and repair while not providing value.
Why is the rate of use so low? Equipment is often misplaced or accumulated in certain departments during its journey around the facility. MME ends up in empty rooms, shoved into closets, and stacked up in hallways. Sometimes nurses feel they need to hoard MME to deliver timely patient care. When devices can be located, they may not be cleaned and ready for patient use. The perceived lack of equipment availability leads to duplicate rentals, unnecessary purchasing, and devices that have outlived usefulness. Without a proper process in place, the extra devices will become part of the misplacement cycle.
The challenges of MME management became more pronounced during COVID-19 surges. When health facilities fill beyond capacity, any wasted time is detrimental to patient health. More patients, especially those with severe illnesses, require more attention from nurses. Nurses cannot afford to spend time searching for and cleaning MME.
Addressing the challenges of mobile medical equipment
A facility-wide MME management system can improve device cleanliness and address issues caused by a lack of workflow. The MME management solution should focus on:
- Practice-based organizational process design to create accountable leadership and a standard procedure that fits into nurses’ workflow and provides patient-ready equipment when and where it is needed.
- Standardized cleaning protocols specific to each device and validated using objective cleanliness testing.
- Data and technology that provide real-time visibility into existing clinical asset capacity and day-to-day demand.
- Designated key performance indicators and a process improvement culture to measure processes’ effectiveness and enable health system leaders to understand when to adjust procedures to meet goals.
Implementing an MME management system requires technology and people. The first step is to take a census of all devices, including information on type, location, and operating status. Then, a specialized team is tasked with maintaining and cleaning the equipment, taking the work off the nurses’ plates. The team’s technicians implement original equipment manufacturer-specific cleaning protocols and validate device cleanliness with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing to ensure the equipment passes objective testing measures.
Nursing and infection control staff can provide information allowing management teams to forecast what devices are needed when and where. Standardized workflows enabled by technology incorporate data on clean and soiled devices with monitored baseline use levels so nurses can feel confident they will find patient-ready equipment when needed. In addition, managers have the data to make better-informed decisions about what equipment they need and plan for routine and surge demand.
Managing mobile assets has a wide variety of benefits, and an effective program will lead to:
- Increased device cleanliness.
- Improved nurse satisfaction.
- Reduced nurses’ time spent searching for equipment.
- Increased daily mobile asset utilization.
- A decrease in unneeded mobile equipment rental expenses.
Managing medical devices is crucial to patient care, especially mobile medical equipment. MME should not be one of the many challenges facing nurses and health systems. A deliberate and focused strategy increases the cleanliness of devices, reduces the risk of HAI, and improves patient care by decreasing clinician burnout and enabling nurses to spend maximum time at the patient’s bedside.
Editor’s Note: Amy Knue is the vice president of mobile equipment services for TRIMEDX. In her role, she leads TRIMEDX’s Mobile Medical Equipment (MME) management service offering that provides hospitals with the cleaning and management of mobile equipment through technology enablement, on-site technicians, and best-in-class lean processes. Amy has spent her entire career in the healthcare technology management industry and has served in various leadership roles at TRIMEDX for over 10 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and earned an MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.