by Sean Ruck
, Contributing Editor | November 04, 2014
From the August 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Although in-house service technicians are onsite and provide the fastest initial response time, unless the organization has that economy of scale, they likely need support from an outside service group.
In-house teams not only help to maintain equipment by keeping up with preventative maintenance, but they also serve to provide an immediate first look in the event of equipment failure. While not every facility may be large enough to justify a full-time in-house team, it’s a valid option for many. And in-house isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Many OEMs and ISOs work closely with in-house teams, providing training and support, in some cases even working with those professionals to help them become more self-sufficient and thereby take charge of more of their hospital’s service needs.
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While alternative maintenance programs using risk-based assessment have been carried out for years, officially, it was against the rules to deviate from manufacturer recommendations for maintenance according to the requirements set forth by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. But CMS, whether understaffed or unconcerned, didn’t go to great lengths to enforce the rules as long as hospitals were keeping the equipment in good order and had the documentation to support their risk-based maintenance decisions.
That all changed in late 2011, when CMS issued a memo specifying restrictions to those alternative maintenance programs. According to the memo, hospitals had the option to examine and adjust maintenance schedules and testing frequency where appropriate, but could not deviate from manufacturer recommendations for any equipment that could impact patient health and safety or for any equipment too new to have an extensive maintenance history. Hospitals, ISOs and numerous healthcare associations were up-in-arms and the outcry was so loud that CMS toned down the directive. The final decree is that hospitals must follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to laser devices, imaging equipment, radiological equipment and equipment too new to the market to have adequate maintenance history to develop an alternative program.
While that comes as a blow to some in-house service teams, the savings and efficiency they deliver still makes the option attractive to many hospitals. Other hospitals swear by longstanding relationships with OEM partners and haven’t concerned themselves with the CMS drama.
DOTmed HealthCare Business News spoke with a number of providers about their service needs and the experiences they’ve had. The group has had a mix of using in-house, ISO or OEM services and has had a mix of success with those options.