Biomedical engineers make up a unique niche that combines engineering and technology with medicine, the critical liaison between clinical personnel and technology experts.

Over the decades, their knowledge has been used to apply advanced technology to complex medical problems. From the development of pacemakers and defibrillators to critical imaging such as CT, PET scans or MRIs, biomedical engineers have revolutionized treatment, diagnostics and the monitoring of patients. While not every biomedical engineer is on the front lines of cutting-edge discovery, many play an integral role in managing equipment standards for their health care organizations.

How? It is often the biomedical engineer’s responsibility to investigate equipment failures and advise the organization when it is best to purchase new equipment. Their role is key to patient care, as well as the hospital’s capital planning.

Consider three ways effective equipment standards management under the direction of a biomedical engineer drives efficiency.

Improve workflow.

The benefits of standardization are realized from the very beginning of the construction planning process.

By establishing medical equipment standards, biomedical engineers and purchasing teams can quickly input accurate equipment costs estimates, improving workflow for designers and planners. This facilitates a quicker approval process and reduces the amount of time equipment planners must spend selecting and documenting equipment, as equipment planners do not have to start from scratch for each piece of equipment. Instead, they can focus their attention on truly unique pieces of equipment.

An effective equipment standards plan also ensures that hospitals do not overbuy, either by paying too much or having redundant equipment. Interestingly, Forbes pointed to “purchasing redundant, expensive medical equipment and generating excess demand” as one way hospitals have inadvertently contributed to the increase in health care costs. Equipment standards management work to prevent that scenario, improving workflow and reducing costs for both the hospital and the patient.

The benefits of standardization can continue to affect workflow after the project is complete. Whether an organization is procuring equipment for new construction, an expansion or a remodel, standardizing equipment will make the hospital run more efficiently.

Ensuring that standard equipment used across departments is the same brand can lessen the learning curve when staff must transition to a new floor or department, while also reducing the likelihood of human error. Improved workflows reduce costs and improve the quality of care. Standardizing equipment also improves workflow for biomedical engineers themselves. Dealing with fewer manufacturers and models streamlines the amount of analysis, testing and maintenance processes that engineers must know how to do.

Save on energy costs.

Hospitals are the second-largest users of energy among commercial buildings, according to Energy Star Commercial Buildings. The most recent data from the Healthier Hospitals Initiative reported that between 2003 and 2008, energy costs for hospitals rose 56%. This is partly due to technological advances, as hospitals have the challenge of balancing rising energy costs and the need for technology with remaining competitive and meeting patient needs.

Equipment standards management ensures that all factors are considered before purchasing equipment, including the total cost of ownership and the amount of energy savings. When deciding on recommendations, biomedical engineers consider what is suitable for the patient, as well as what makes sense for the organization.

Standards must be set by assessing current equipment and benchmarking. You should assess by calculating the “plug load” of all medical equipment in service, and identify older-generation equipment. Energy performance must be considered when looking at the cost-of-ownership of the older hardware. Once purchases have been made, benchmarking is critical to support future equipment-purchasing decisions. Set energy standards for equipment and collect data that shows the models are meeting those standards and are achieving the expected energy savings.

Manufacturers have heard the call for energy efficiency and are meeting those needs. For example, newer MRI and CT scanners are smaller, lighter, more energy-efficient and more patient-friendly. Their “plug load” is less, offering up to 50% energy savings, according to healthcare design magazine. Newer models also save space, are quicker to install, save on construction costs and expose the patient to less radiation.  An effective equipment standards plan instigated by a biomedical engineer should take all these factors into consideration.

Watch the on-demand webinar to learn how a major healthcare system reduced equipment expenditure with total lifecycle management.

Decrease maintenance.

Equipment maintenance is highly specialized, often requiring integration with electronic networks while maintaining safety and compliance. For these reasons, the support of medical equipment is often outsourced. However, it is the biomedical engineer’s responsibility to ensure a qualified person performs maintenance on-time. At the same time, engineers look for ways to reduce maintenance costs without sacrificing the quality of care, accuracy or reliability. Equipment standards management ensures all these requirements are met.

Consider these three tips in your management strategy:
1. Development benchmarking by calculating the equipment’s cost of service (COS).

Take into account the equipment and the cost to maintain it, including labor hours, parts, repairs and third-party contracts. Compare the COS ratio against established goals in your equipment management strategy to get direction on increasing efficiency.

2. Do not outsource all maintenance.

Many simple adjustments and minor repairs could be done in-house by clinical engineers. Training in-house staff will save money and reduce downtown since hospitals will not have to wait for technicians to schedule a call. Many third-party vendors offer remote dial-in tech support to help staff diagnose equipment problems and determine if a technician is needed.

3. Get a trusted third-party vendor.

Biomedical engineers can select to use the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for maintenance or a third-party repair organization.

While many prefer OEM’s because they feel they know the equipment best, OEM’s often charge more and take longer to schedule repairs. A trusted third-party vendor can save the organization money in two ways: lower costs on parts and by reducing downtime with quicker response time.

According to Modern Medicine, third-party vendors can save operators as much as 97% relative to OEM solutions. How do you know if a third-party vendor is reliable? Look for one with a good reputation in the clinical engineering community. Also, companies with more extended warranties tend to provide higher quality parts.

Accessing the data.

The management of medical equipment has taken on a new complexity in recent decades. Hospitals must keep up to ensure they remain competitive, meet patient needs and realize cost savings for themselves.

Accruent is partnered with Attainia to enable healthcare delivery organization access to the data needed to make sound equipment management decisions.

Learn more about how to improve medical equipment planning processes at every stage of the capital equipment lifecycle.