Increasing Equipment Availability and PMs in Hospitals
By Todd Stewart
Today, there are many challenges in hospitals that drive equipment hoarding and perceived shortages of equipment. But there are ways to address these issues and ensure equipment is where it should be, so patients can get the care they need and can leave the hospital on-schedule.
Let’s say you’re a nurse at a hospital and you’re in a consult with a doctor. It’s determined that the patient needs several different medications which must be administered via intravenous (IV) therapy. As a nurse, you’re already thinking about the last time you needed an IV pump, and it took 3 hours to get one.
In the past, when this type of situation arises, what nurses have done is “hide” equipment to ensure it’s available. This process of hiding equipment repeats itself until everyone seems to have their own little stash. The next thing you know, all the pumps are seemingly stashed away and when someone needs a pump, no one can find any. Worse yet, the clinical engineering team is negatively impacted in completing scheduled preventive maintenance on the pumps since they can’t locate the equipment.
The reason the nurses hoard the equipment is they don’t trust that clean, patient-ready equipment will be available when needed. The nurses adapt their behavior to work around the problem.
With an automated equipment distribution workflow solution, hospitals can re-establish trust among the clinical staff by allowing them to request the equipment via an online portal. Real-time visibility into the equipment requests – what’s being ordered by whom, where and how often – coupled with tracking technology helps drive real-time workflows.
Equipment hoarding can create “perceived shortages” which often leads to purchasing more equipment unnecessarily. Health systems typically have enough equipment available to meet demand. But the lack of efficient workflow automation pertaining to equipment distribution means equipment isn’t always readily available when needed. This lack of equipment availability leads to hoarding and perceived shortages which drives the purchase requisitions for more equipment.
Unfortunately, many hospitals fall victim to “I guess we have to buy more”. But there’s a better way. Health systems can stop wasting money on equipment that they don’t need. Instead, health systems can:
- increase equipment availability
- improve equipment utilization
- decrease unnecessary rentals
- decrease equipment spend
- improve staff and patient satisfaction
- drive stronger patient outcomes
- decrease the opportunity for cross-contamination between patient uses
- meet preventive maintenance (PM) completion compliance
Automating equipment distribution workflow to re-establish trust, eliminate the need to hoard equipment, improve preventive maintenance completion rates and avoid unnecessary capital spend is within reach.
Without an automated workflow solution, a nurse might have to call the unit clerk who would in turn call the supply desk to send the equipment. If the supply desk staff isn’t available, the unit clerk leaves a voicemail. Two hours later, the unit clerk goes home and the nurse still doesn’t have the IV pump.
A closed-loop, automated equipment distribution process can provide:
- quick/easy access to create equipment requests
- status of requests in real time
- assignment of requests to technicians for fulfillment
- real-time visibility into staff productivity
- understanding of demand to better manage equipment levels
The closed-loop process drives real-time situational awareness at every step of the way. Everyone is informed of what’s happening – in real time – with every request across the entire health system. In terms of re-establishing trust, changing behavior and culture, and driving better patient outcomes, a workflow solution is a powerful tool. Now, nurses can get away from managing equipment and get back to delivering patient care.
A closed-loop equipment distribution process affects other groups within the hospital environment. If you’re a biomed director, your department is often responsible for repairing the equipment. With tracking tags on the equipment, at any point in time, the biomed department can find the equipment to complete the scheduled work. Because there isn’t more equipment than is actually needed, the biomed department doesn’t have more work than it can handle.
If you’re in supply chain, materials management, or support services, you’re often asked, “Why aren’t you bringing my stuff on time?” You can change that dynamic. In fact, you can focus on service-level response times and request fulfillment instead of service recovery, driving equipment availability and equipment utilization to new levels.
About the Author
For more than 20 years, Todd Stewart has assisted health systems to achieve continuous process improvement and operational excellence by spending time in hospital settings, on nursing floors, and in operational departments. As Vice President Enterprise Workflow Solutions at Accruent, Todd works with customers to map out short- and long-term goals for sustainable results across a wide variety of healthcare environments, identify gaps and inefficiencies in business processes, and prescribe sustainable solutions to achieve operational excellence. Todd leverages LEAN thinking and new/existing technologies to improve workflow processes and to positively impact operational effectiveness, patient/staff satisfaction, and safety and efficiency across the continuum of care delivery. Todd’s specialties include passive RFID, real-time locating systems (RTLS), and transformational change management in healthcare.