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David Stevens

Health Care

Four Reasons Why Healthcare Facilities Struggle With Clinical Asset Management

Tracking your assets is critical to patient safety

Published: Wednesday, July 6, 2022 - 12:01

The United States has more than 6,000 hospitals, and each one has thousands, if not tens of thousands, of clinical assets, such as imaging machines, ventilators, and IV pumps. Managing this equipment becomes a mighty task when hospital staff must handle the monitoring, repair, and maintenance of each.

Even a minor mistake could prove problematic. Missteps can bring on unnecessary expenditures, compromise patient care, and exhaust both the time and spirits of hospital staff. According to TRIMEDX’s health provider surveys, nurses spend up to an hour each shift just locating equipment or verifying its cleanliness.

Avoiding such troubles begins with determining your vulnerabilities within your asset management system. Healthcare facilities struggle with clinical asset management in four fundamental ways.

1. Inventory visibility is inadequate 

Challenges with clinical asset management often arise from the lack of a “single source of truth,” a single, centralized inventory system. As a result, the hospital as a whole lacks certainty of the exact number of its clinical assets. TRIMEDX found that many health systems and hospitals had incorrect information about their medical device inventories. To give context to the scale of this issue, hospitals average 10 to 15 networked devices per bed. Multiply this by the number of beds in a hospital, and it’s possible clinical asset inventories could be inaccurate by hundreds or thousands of devices.

This lack of visibility can be detrimental. Many other decisions are made based on the medical device inventory. Without an accurate understanding of devices at your disposal, there’s no way to make data-driven, strategic decisions on spending and planning.

Visibility is necessary not only on a high level to know the overall inventory, but also at a specific level with each medical device. Clarity is essential for a multitude of factors, including:
• How many devices you have
• Where the devices are located
• If there is an outstanding patch or unresolved FDA recall with any device
• How old each device is
• The repair history of each device
• How often each device is used

Gathering the necessary information isn’t easy. A merger of a hospital and a health network can bring on contrasting inventory systems with no clear communication or information exchange. Although hospital technology has improved in some areas—such as pharmaceutical management—a strong, centralized inventory system for tracking medical devices is sometimes ignored when priorities are discussed.

Inadequate inventory visibility coincides directly with the second pain point common for hospitals struggling with clinical asset management.

2. Device utilization is uncertain 

The lack of clarity in knowing how many devices are on hand isn’t the only important information often overlooked by hospitals. Knowing how many devices are being used and how often are equally essential. Some devices are used daily, such as heart monitors or ultrasound machines; other devices are used less frequently, and some equipment may sit in storage, forgotten.

Uncertain utilization can waste capital funds simply because decision-makers remain blind to which devices the hospital needs to purchase, rent, keep, or dispose of. Many health systems carry a surplus of clinical assets across their network. But according to industry data measured by TRIMEDX’s IoMT security platform, hospitals fully utilize only 40–50 percent of the devices.

Accurate figures on utilization, by contrast, present an opportunity to overcome the third pain point for clinical asset management.

3. Capital planning is subjective 

Another effect of limited visibility is a lack of information needed to make strategic decisions regarding equipment purchases. Poor decision-making on this front can result in unnecessary expenses. Without reliable data, the personal preferences of a department head, anecdotal evidence, or other subjective standards factor into purchasing decisions. An objective approach to capital planning, driven by data, is the best way to make smart decisions.

Many considerations can guide the decision of replacing, upgrading, disposing of, or reallocating medical equipment. Factors such as device utilization, cybersecurity risk, inactivity, previous repairs, remaining lifetime, and availability of parts can help prioritize, reduce, and delay expenditures according to the needs of your budget and available resources.

Consider a health system that is aware of an excess of one type of device it has at one site and a shortage of the same device at a second site. With full visibility of the available assets, an administrator could reallocate the surplus devices to the site in need rather than spend valuable resources buying or renting more equipment.

A clinical asset management solution designed to assess such criteria quickly helps systems prioritize their budgetary needs and extend the life of their existing equipment.

4. Governance is insufficient 

A clinical asset management solution is a valuable tool, but it’s just that: a tool. Its success requires stable processes to ensure adoption, responsibility, transparency, and receptivity. Insufficient governance is the fourth pain point, and it can cripple even the best software solutions.

Health systems must clearly define the roles and responsibilities of authority to make decisions when implementing a clinical asset management solution.

Establishing a governance council is one approach to overcoming this pain point. A council can create committees to enhance collaboration and institute a system that determines a designated person for accountability. In addition, it can move the management of medical devices from the mentality of a reactive “break-then-fix” plan to proactive program maturity that allows medical devices to be strategic levers across the healthcare system.

Benefits stretch beyond financials 

In 2022, healthcare systems face intensified difficulties. According to an American College of Healthcare Executives survey released in February, personnel shortages now sit at the top of hospital CEOs’ list of concerns. Financial challenges, which had ranked No. 1 since 2004, remain just below, though, at second place.

Intelligent clinical asset management can address such concerns. A robust clinical asset management solution can provide visibility of medical devices and utilization data to make objective, critical decisions, while a positioned governance system can help ensure success.

Altogether, this approach can better manage expenses and resources, lessen patient risk, and improve clinician satisfaction.


About The Author

David Stevens’s picture

David Stevens

An experienced leader in the clinical asset management industry, David Stevens serves as TRIMEDX’s vice president of clinical asset management. In this role, he oversees the deployment and support of Clinical Asset Informatics, manages a team of CAM Strategic Advisors, and supports mobile medical equipment management services and surplus equipment disposition and auctions with Centurion Service Group, a TRIMEDX company. He is a board-certified fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a member of both the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation.