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Staying high and dry during the perfect storm

by Heather Mayer, DOTmed News Reporter | September 09, 2010

To become more cost-effective, what's needed, Blackford advises, is a process to ensure that equipment is properly maintained, stored and cleaned. Studies have found that some hospitals report utilization rates of infusion devices to be in the high 20 to low 30 percent range.

"That would suggest at any time, two-thirds of the devices are not in use on patients," Blackford explains.

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That translates to idle assets and loss of potential revenue.

But it's not only the equipment that doesn't fulfill its maximum potential. When equipment is broken, hard-to-find or not ready to use, nurses, who should be caring for patients, are forced to find a fix or a substitute.

"Nurses are forced to go looking for equipment or clean their own equipment," says Blackford. "That takes them away from their primary mission of patient care."

When it comes to implementing an equipment management program, Blackford says it relies on three main components, all of which are a part of UHS' Asset360 program. In 2009, the program helped customers avoid more than $5.1 million in repair costs.

"If you're missing any one [of the components], it's very difficult to have a successful asset management program," he says.

Hospitals need to have technology - systems that allow staff to know where equipment is at any given time. Another component is having people who understand the equipment and technology that drive production and utilization. Finally, hospitals need to make sure equipment is accounted for, repaired and maintained.

"In a hospital setting, I've yet to find more than a dozen hospitals who have a documented, well-defined process for equipment management," Blackford says.

But not having an equipment management program doesn't mean it's intentional, he continues.

"Asset management doesn't get up on the radar screen," he says. "It's not high on their priority list. If you think of all the chaos hospitals have these days, all these events that take management away."

Hospitals can also optimize cost savings by training on-site staff to repair expensive equipment, says Blackford. Currently, many hospitals outsource equipment repair to OEM technicians, which tends to be expensive.

"Hospitals should focus on the higher-end, imaging lab equipment to be repaired in-house," says Blackford. "[Hospitals can get] better rates if the lower-end repairs are out-of-house."

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