Rick Joslin

Future of medical equipment maintenance

August 14, 2020
By Rick Joslin

As facilities management in healthcare continues to advance and evolve, predictive maintenance (PdM) strategies will likely be the ultimate destination for effective, efficient, and safe environment of care management.
Getting there will be the result of continued data collection and standardization, regulatory evolution, and systems integrations that ensure a safe and compliant healthcare ecosystem and support staff eager for efficient and effective processes.

The Internet of Things (IoT) gives environmental management (design, control, support, maintenance) activities opportunities for improvements in myriad areas. Today, the airflow and temperature of a space can be preprogrammed for times of day and days of week to allow for variations in need. In healthcare, IoT will expand beyond basic environmental use and into support and maintenance. Today’s mostly manual process of a human performing repetitive checks and inspections will be replaced with connected IoT devices. An IoT sensor on a medical air compressor will monitor the harmonics of the shaft and signal when a bearing is due for servicing. An IoT sensor on an air handler pulley will monitor the belt tension and signal when an adjustment is needed. IoT sensors on fuel tanks will signal refueling needs. IoT sensors throughout environmental spaces will signal temperature adjustments for each affected zone.

But more importantly, when coupled with artificial intelligence (AI), healthcare service departments will move into a “closed-loop” support process where the signals from IoT devices will generate an automated action. Let’s take that harmonic sensor on the medical air compressor; after identifying a reading that is out of the normal range, AI could compare that reading to historical values to determine if a repair is needed now or just an adjustment on the compressor itself. If either is needed, AI will produce a work order identifying the needed action, identify the best resource to perform the repair and assign them to the work, then notify that individual through electronic communications. If a repair is needed (a new bearing), AI will produce the needed requisition for the part and/or identify where the part is located for easy retrieval. AI and IoT could eliminate most environmental condition issues by monitoring ambient temperatures within spaces, collecting capacity values, reviewing external conditions affecting air quality, and automatically adjusting airflow and temperature settings every ten minutes to ensure optimum conditions for patients, staff, and visitors.

AI and IoT will eliminate most needed prescheduled maintenance activities by proactively monitoring equipment conditions and automatically generating needed services. Like with modern automobiles, IoT and AI will monitor fluids and produce service work orders when viscosity levels dictate, saving thousands of dollars in labor and materials over time-based activities. Medical equipment, much of which is already connected and monitored, will shift to proactive notifications and generation of service requests. Some companies are already looking at available streams of data from modern devices to identify anomalies and initiate proactive repairs. It’s quite possible that automated status identifications will occur, where an asset (while not in use) will identify as “not available” due to some needed servicing to prevent an unsafe use condition. Even when in use, status notifications will occur allowing clinicians to proactively replace that asset with another before an unsafe condition arises.

As these capabilities expand and are proved to enhance the safety and reliability of equipment and spaces, we will see regulatory and oversight agencies adapt. As with alternative equipment management programs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and others will codify PdM and allow healthcare organizations to embrace the proven benefits of this maintenance strategy.

About the author: Rick Joslin is the senior advisor of healthcare strategy at Accruent, the world's leading provider of physical resource management solutions.