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The economics of medical equipment service

August 06, 2019
Parts And Service
From the August 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

With hospital margins limited at best, savings matter. A hospital must generate $20 in revenue to for every $1 in costs. With multiple options available, service is an excellent area to look for savings. But one size does not fit all. Providers should determine where they are in respect to their overall service costs, then identify benchmarks for comparison to similar users. Quotes from asset management, third-party service organizations, or maintenance insurance proposals should provide excellent guides. The asset management team can then determine the right balance of cost saving, outcomes, and risks for maintaining your technology.

Changing market
There are four types of medical equipment maintenance: corrective, operational, preventive, and predictive. Corrective includes repairs to technology that is no longer functioning properly. Operational maintenance is tasks that can be performed by the equipment user, such as filter changes. Preventive maintenance is work performed to reduce the chances of a system failing without warning. Predictive maintenance is an evolving concept based on monitoring the equipment and performing corrective or preventive maintenance when warranted. It is a cost- and time-saving method made possible by online remote equipment monitoring.

Changing face of technology
Technology has been rapidly evolving over the years, with computers playing an increasing role in medical devices. IT is also playing a much bigger role in direct patient care than it did even a few years ago, thanks to new “pay-for-performance” initiatives. Devices such as X-ray machines, CT, lab technology or even medical records, which were once stand-alone systems, are now networked to save costs and improve efficiencies and safety. It is an evolving process that brings technology, physicians, and patients together and is commonly referred to as “Medical Home”. The downside is that it has complicated practice in which technology has evolved beyond just the “box”. The result is the addition of software, wireless, internet, and networking concerns to the service market.

With varying needs and markets, few industries have the luxury of access to one-size-fits-all technologies. Unique markets have motivated hospitals to develop their own technological environment, designed to provide care according to their patient mix. This requires a combination of multiple technologies and vendors, which makes a “plug and play” approach difficult.

To address this, biomed and IT departments have begun to work closely with each other and with vendors to manage the network. When individual service contracts are required, clearly defined rights and responsibilities of each party should be indicated. Even so, the network and its ability to assist in delivering healthcare is the responsibility of the hospital. To facilitate this, a manager within the facility should be identified to take responsibility for the operation and upkeep of the hospital’s networks.

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