Margin crunch? Opportunities for clinical engineering to cut expenses and grow revenue

Margin crunch? Opportunities for clinical engineering to cut expenses and grow revenue

August 20, 2019
From the August 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

There are several ways to look at standardization efforts. One type of standardization is on the equipment within the system. Equipment standardization not only benefits clinical engineering departments, so that departments can minimize the different makes/models of equipment they need to be trained on and keep parts and inventory for, but benefits also abound across the organization. With standardized equipment, nurses, clinicians, and physicians who float unit to unit don’t have to learn how to use different makes/models of equipment. As users become proficient with equipment, the number of errors that occur decrease, which directly increases patient safety. Additionally, supply chain departments can also use standardized equipment to leverage better negotiating power not just for purchasing the capital equipment, but also the disposables associated with those devices. Therefore standardized equipment not only reduces cost of acquisition, support, and training across departments, but also improves patient safety.

As most health systems are underway with equipment standardization, one standardization area not regularly looked at is software standardization. There are very few hospital or health systems that have looked at the asset management solutions they are using in multiple departments and have worked toward standardizing them. Facilities, IT, Clinical Engineering, and Finance usually all have their own system(s) to manage assets and maintenance requirements. Software solutions are now available to use the same system for two or more of these departments, which, again, reduces the support and maintenance costs for these software systems.

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Contracts/in-house services
In the section above, caution was given to canceling expensive maintenance contracts in favor of bringing services in-house. Although there are risks to this option, with proper planning, staffing, training, and implementation this technique can be successful. A thorough, in-depth review of services provided by the department with expected service level agreements can identify areas where resources are available to take on additional work. A detailed training and transition plan can mitigate the risk of increasing downtime, negating the cost savings one is trying to achieve. It is important to partner with clinical staff for their support, and communicate any changes and implications to their clinical workflow.

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