From the August 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
A contradictory business model
There are many medical technologies in hospitals that can readily be serviced by the hospital-based biomed, IT, and facilities staff, but often are not. This is because, for manufacturers, service and maintenance represents one of their most lucrative revenue streams. They have designed digital, physical, engineering, and mercantile controls to prevent hospital-based technical staff from providing basic servicing to many hospital-owned critical devices.
Imagine if you, your local mechanic, the AAA employee, and the corner gas station attendant were all unable to change your car’s oil, replace your battery, change your tires, or open your hood to put in a new air filter? This is essentially the case for many of our country’s hospitals with respect to many mission-critical medical technologies.
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When a manufacturer’s service model excludes the hospital-based biomed staff from device service, requiring a member of their company’s service staff to enter the hospital, they are creating unnecessary risk solely in support of their financial objectives. This is far from an optimal approach to providing technology support services in conjunction with the hospital’s infection control imperatives. This also contradicts the statements of manufacturer trade groups, which often claim to be motivated entirely by patient safety.
There will be cases where the hospital’s in-house or on-site biomeds will not be able to repair or support certain essential technologies without the help of manufacturer-based or third-party service company staff. But in many cases, the first level of service support could be done via mobile phone and/or video chat using the in-house BMET as the on-site resource. Good service technicians can talk their fellow service professionals through many types of problems and level one physical repairs. Only when internal providers reach their limit should external providers be carefully brought into the hospital to provide services.
This common sense approach is more aligned to hospital infection control practices and an example of what the “new normal” in medical device service must evolve to. We must also consider ways to reduce service done by shipping and receiving devices that in-house biomed departments can repair. Boxes and parcels should not go in or out of the hospital unless necessary. Therefore, manufacturers should curtail the use of mandatory “ship it to service it” models and collaborate more extensively with hospital biomed departments and technical staff to repair equipment at the BMET’s workbench.