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Dave Klumpe

Health Care

Nurses Are Stretched Thinner Than Ever: Are Hospitals Doing All They Can?

Medical equipment management is part of the solution to complex healthcare issues

Published: Monday, April 5, 2021 - 11:02

Recent surveys point to increasing frustration and, frankly, exhaustion among nurses across the country. Although attending to patients during the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges of the profession, nursing shortages have been reported on for well over a decade. It is incumbent on hospitals to do everything they can to ensure that nurses—often referred to as the backbone of our healthcare system—can do their jobs safely and effectively, maximizing their focus on patient care.

It may surprise healthcare administrators to learn that opportunities to improve nurse satisfaction and create more time for patient care are well within reach. A commonly overlooked source of nurse dissatisfaction and delays in care has to do with a hospital’s mobile medical equipment (MME). These pieces of equipment—IV pumps, warming units, and the like—can number in the tens of thousands for a given health system and are the clinical assets that move from patient room to patient room, in and out of storage. They’re constantly handled, sometimes lost or stored in hard-to-find places, and difficult to keep germ-free, but ultimately they are critical for patient care.

Mobile medical equipment takes up too much of nurses’ valuable time

Tracking down, moving, cleaning, and looking after MME is everyone’s job—and no one’s job. The costs associated with these activities are often unaccounted for or spread across multiple budgets. Yet, when push comes to shove, it’s nurses who wind up making sure MME is ready and available for patients. In hospitals that lack a comprehensive solution for handling MME, nurses have reported spending 45 or more minutes per shift tracking down and cleaning such equipment. With nearly two million nurses working in U.S. hospitals, the number of hours of direct patient care that’s potentially lost is staggering.

Hospitals, however, do have options when it comes to MME. In addition to consolidating responsibility for the maintenance and cleaning of the devices under specialized teams (it’s not uncommon for MME to fail routine tests for cleanliness), readily available clinical asset management solutions allow providers to make better-informed decisions about what equipment they need, what needs to be repaired, and what should be stored for future needs. On an average day, about 45 percent of the equipment hospitals own is in use; on peak days, usage nears 65 percent. Having MME that’s functional, sterilized, and readily available makes a significant difference to patients as well as for the caregivers they depend on.

Better device management leads to better care

When hospitals optimize the management and staging of these devices, they can fulfill patient needs with less equipment, allocating excess devices to other sites or reselling them to recoup capital investment. By maximizing the utility of a smaller fleet of devices, providers can help bring the amount of time nurses spend searching for and prepping equipment down to just minutes per shift while also improving their job satisfaction rates.

An effective MME program can help hospitals keep devices cleaner, significantly reducing the percentage of devices that fail adenosine triphosphate (ATP) tests for organic matter. It also means that healthcare workers don’t need to stash equipment in out-of-the-way storage areas (or under desks and in closets, for that matter) just in case of peak needs, since equipment is more reliably available and conditions have been forecast.

A comprehensive MME solution—consisting of both people and technology—can be a tough sell for health systems that may not have budgeted at all for MME handling or assigned it to any particular roles within the organization. Nevertheless, in terms of patient safety and care, job satisfaction among nurses, and reduced financial pressures, the upside of investing in MME management is tremendous.

As hospitals continue to battle Covid-19 and lean heavily on nurses to serve and care for affected patients as well as administer vaccinations, gaining precious minutes each shift is a worthwhile endeavor.

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About The Author

Dave Klumpe’s picture

Dave Klumpe

Dave Klumpe is president of clinical asset management for TRIMEDX, an industry-leading, independent clinical asset management company delivering comprehensive clinical engineering services, clinical asset informatics, and medical device cybersecurity. Klumpe leads TRIMEDX’s clinical asset management business unit, including Fleet Informatics, Asset Informatics & Planning, Asset Utilization Services and Asset Lifecycle Management services. Prior to joining TRIMEDX, he led the development of supply chain management and technology services for several of the nation’s largest healthcare providers.