Clinical Engineers Hold the Key to Success in Ways You Never Guessed
Empowering Clinical Engineers on the Go
Clinical engineers: your hospital couldn’t function without them. They are a constant, quiet presence as they fix equipment, provide maintenance, and troubleshoot problems. As such, they aren’t involved in a lot of “bigger picture” activities. For example, they don’t perform compliance reporting on equipment. They don’t purchase new machines. They don’t negotiate maintenance contracts. And yet, clinical engineers hold the key to success for each of these critical areas within the hospital.
If this revelation comes as a surprise, consider: as clinical engineers go about their work, they collect vast amounts of valuable information. For instance, they know:
- When medical devices aren’t where they are supposed to be, prohibiting preventive maintenance from being performed
- How many times they have to repair a device – including which devices break down consistently, and why
- The cost of labor, parts, and travel time
But where does this data go? For an astonishing number of hospitals, it gets entered on spreadsheets. And there it sits: useless to the organization at large because the information is not readily available and accessible.
It’s time to empower clinical engineers by giving them a system that works for them – and for the entire healthcare organization. Such a system needs to be mobile so that clinical engineers can enter data on the spot as they go about their daily tasks. It needs to be connected so that all the departments that rely on or utilize the data can access information. And it needs to be real-time so that decisions can be made with agility.
Compliance, Costs, and Contracts
The changes such a system brings to the hospital are remarkable. Take compliance: when the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) or the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation (JCAHO) comes to the door and says, “Prove that you are maintaining your devices,” it usually results in a mad scramble – one that can raise blood pressure for days. Where are the records? What about all those devices that couldn’t be located? Was maintenance performed in a timely manner?
But if clinical engineers have the opportunity to log data online every time they work on a piece of equipment, audits present no cause for apprehension. There is no hurry, no worry, no bother: simply print a report within five minutes with all the requisite details, and the auditor is satisfied and can move on. The data is complete, accurate, and up-to-the-minute.
Such ease can reduce compliance preparation costs by up to 90%, and may reduce compliance support staff salary costs by up to 20%. For a 600-bed hospital system, these savings could possibly exceed $100,000 per year.
Then there is the matter of purchasing. Imagine that you have expanded your hospital. Market share is high. It’s the perfect time to purchase a new MRI. Which one will you buy? The one for $2MM, or the one for $900K? You have an MRI from each manufacturer currently in your network. Now is the time to ask, “How do these two machines stack up?”
With data collected from clinical engineers, you will be able to study the performance of each machine and identify trends that could impact your purchasing decision, such as:
- How often does each machine require repairs?
- What is the nature of those repairs?
- What are the costs of those repairs?
- What is the cost of preventive maintenance?
- What is the average downtime for each machine in the event of a breakage?
By leveraging this data, hospitals have the potential to drive down medical equipment spend by 2-5%. If the annual spend for medical devices for a hospital is $50MM per year, a 5% decrease in spending would translate to cost savings of $2.5MM.
Finally, consider contract negotiation. Maintenance contracts for equipment are a major budgetary line item. Clinical engineers can provide hospitals with the data necessary to compare what it would cost in terms of travel, parts, and labor to perform maintenance on a piece of equipment in-house vs. the cost to renew a manufacturer’s contract for the same device. For example, suppose the service contract on an MRI is $107,000 per year. Would it cost more or less than that to maintain the MRI internally?
Even if the decision is made to keep the manufacturer’s contract, this data can be leveraged to gain a favorable renewal price. For instance, suppose a device has a service contract for $60,000 per year, but the data shows that the device on average only goes down once a year with an easily-solvable issue. This information can be taken back to the service provider and used to negotiate a lower-cost service contract based on actual device performance.
By making data-driven decisions and negotiations with regard to contract management, it is frequently possible to save 10% or more on contract spend. If contract spend was, for example, $15MM per year, a 10% savings would be $1.5MM – a very significant ROI.
The value of a mobile, connected, real-time system for medical device management goes far beyond making the clinical engineer’s job easier, which it certainly does. The true value of such a system is that it recognizes clinical engineers hold the key to success for multiple departments within the organization – and empowers them to unlock that success to benefit the entire hospital and the patients the hospital serves.