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Equipment training: Do it now to save later

May 27, 2011
From the May 2011 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
This report originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of DOTmed Business News

By William Gulley

It’s well known that proper imaging equipment maintenance will extend the usable life of equipment, increase revenue-generating uptime and decrease the total cost of ownership. The question then becomes, what is the most cost-effective method to develop qualified technicians to maintain the equipment at peak efficiency?

Technical training provides clinical engineering departments the skills and techniques needed to maintain and preserve the equipment. Properly trained technicians ensure patient safety by maintaining equipment to operating specifications and assist in compliance with all relevant accreditations. Benefits of training include:

1) Recognize potential issues before they become problems. Technicians trained to perform preventative maintenance can recognize issues before they become catastrophic events. For example, trans-esophageal transducers (TEEs), used in cardiac imaging, have potentially high repair costs. Properly trained technicians can detect early signs of damage due to improper use or storage. If caught in time, the device can then simply undergo low-level repair, instead of requiring a costly complete rebuild.

2) Repair, don’t replace. Trained technicians develop troubleshooting abilities narrowing issues down to one or two areas. They can diagnose, determine parts requirements and repair the issues themselves, thereby reducing or even eliminating OEM service calls. This increased internal capability will save the hospital thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, on potential equipment replacement costs. A new ultrasound machine, for example, may cost upwards of $150,000 to replace.

3) Increased uptime. A medical device exists for two very specific purposes inside a hospital. The first is patient care; the second is to generate revenue. Every day a piece of equipment is out for maintenance is a day not spent generating revenue. A well-trained technician with the ability to diagnose and repair equipment internally significantly reduces downtime, allowing for higher patient throughput and more revenue for the organization.

4) Patient safety. This is arguably the primary purpose of all equipment maintenance. Compromising patient safety can expose the organization to many risks. Beyond possible litigation, when equipment is not in working order or maintenance of the equipment is improperly documented, your organization may fall out of compliance with regulatory agencies such as The Joint Commission.

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