Medical Device Management: The High Cost of Doing Nothing
A typical hospital system has thousands of stationary and mobile medical devices on site and spends millions of dollars on maintenance, purchasing, and leasing. Yet, despite the volume of devices and the investment and expense involved, healthcare organizations are overwhelmingly laggard in adopting effective medical device management – likely because they do not realize the surprisingly high cost of doing nothing.
However, the cost of improvement shouldn’t be your primary concern. If you are frustrated because you are contending with a less-than-optimal medical device management product or outsourcing partner, or are still trying to manage your devices with documents and spreadsheets, take a moment to consider the surprisingly high cost of doing nothing.
Medical device audits tend to generate a mad scramble as staff digs through clinical engineering systems or sorts through spreadsheets to find the necessary data. All the staff hours add up, yet those aren’t the only costs that can occur from an audit. What if the reports contain errors? For example, a report might show that a device has been maintained when, in fact, service and maintenance cycles were missed. An audit will reveal the discrepancy – with unpleasant and costly consequences.
Many medical devices are completely portable. This mobility makes it all too easy to move the device into a room or storage area and forget that it is there, or to have a patient, caregiver, or staff member leave the hospital with the device (intentionally or unintentionally). The problem is that if the device cannot be used, it cannot generate a return on the investment that was made in it – effectively costing the hospital money.
Without medical device data on hand, it is impossible to know if you are getting a good return on investment (ROI) for your service contracts. Consequently, you can’t negotiate with service providers from a position of strength. For instance, suppose a device has a service contract for $60,000 per year, but the device on average only goes down once a year with an easily-solvable issue. If you lack this data, you can’t go back to the service provider and negotiate a lower-cost service contract based on actual device performance.
Countless problems occur with medical devices every day, such as a miscalibrated infusion pump or an MRI showing a fault code. In the absence of integrated medical device data, hospital staff may not realize that a device is under a service contract and, instead, repair it with an internal staff. Essentially, paying twice for a given repair is costing you money.
How do you know what medical devices to purchase and when to purchase them? Without detailed device data on hand, you will be answering those questions in the dark, relying on recommendations from the facilities team, clinical staff, and vendors. People, however, are subjective and often biased. For example, a physician may recommend purchasing a certain piece of equipment, yet do the healthcare practice a disservice from a cost-effectiveness, security, reliability, and/or utilization perspective. Knowing the total cost of ownership and reliability of all your medical devices helps you make better purchasing decisions.
Finally, there is the matter of managing the security of your medical devices. The unfortunate truth is, even devices with security protections are often not configured appropriately within the hospital network to actually be secure. This lack of medical device security is a boon to hackers, who are breaching hospital systems on a regular basis to steal data or introduce ransomware. To add to the cost of poor security, regulators frequently levy fines and penalties if a healthcare system is hacked.
When you add up the real and potential costs of having less-than-optimal medical device management in place, the numbers can quickly mount up to millions of dollars. So, while it is true that there is a cost associated with putting robust medical device management in place, the cost of doing something is far, far less than the cost of doing nothing.