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Scott Trevino

Health Care

Three Predictions for Clinical Asset Management in the Year Ahead

How will your medical organization deal effectively with the ongoing Covid-19 challenge?

Published: Thursday, March 10, 2022 - 12:02

The pandemic promises ongoing challenges for healthcare providers in 2022 as they cope with nursing shortages and cybersecurity threats amid shifts previously underway for the industry. How they manage their clinical assets, however, can present opportunities to overcome those challenges while helping to set the stage for further healthcare changes to come.

Here are three predictions for the healthcare industry in 2022. They will come as healthcare providers realize the larger role that managing medical devices can play in their clinical engineering and cybersecurity strategies going forward. 

Health systems will approach medical-device cybersecurity more holistically

Medical device cybersecurity is a complicated task, and the escalating risks will require expertise from clinical engineering, information technology, and cybersecurity teams, both in-house and externally.

The process begins with an accurate inventory and profile of devices to assess whether a known vulnerability is present. Clinical engineering teams need to know the devices they have as well as whether they have been updated with the latest patch.

Network security, of course, plays a role, too. Devices must be monitored to see whether they exhibit any suspicious behavior. With the shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals, many health systems are using a security operations center (SOC). A security operations center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to monitor, assess, analyze, and respond to cybersecurity threats.

Being aware of a threat, however, is only the beginning. To respond, healthcare systems need to bridge the gap between the network-level monitoring that an SOC provides and the device-level monitoring that a hospital’s IT and clinical-engineering teams provide. Working together, those teams can apply a patch that the device manufacturers themselves must validate, or enact some other compensating control to secure a device, such as disabling a printer spool or closing access to a port.

Cyberattacks continue to escalate against the healthcare industry. IBM’s 2021 “Cost of a Data Breach” report revealed the industry had the highest average cost of a data breach ($9.23 million) for the eleventh year in a row. Health systems can no longer afford anything less than a comprehensive cybersecurity effort that includes teams of various professionals with specific expertise.

The growth of hospital-at-home care will require hospitals to keep better tabs on their medical devices

Although the hospital-at-home model of care dates to 1995, the approach has gained momentum in recent years, particularly as the pandemic presents challenges to bed and staffing availability. The model draws accolades for its convenience and comfort for patients who, rather than receiving acute-level care in a hospital, can stay in their homes; the care comes to them. Research has shown that hospitals can experience better clinical efficiency while providing better health outcomes.

Medical device management can become more demanding, however, as hospitals begin or expand hospital-at-home services. Health systems need 100-percent visibility into their inventory, and the status and use of each device, so they know which devices can be used for hospital-at-home care and which devices must remain at the hospital.

Wherever the devices are day to day, they also must be cybersecure, clean, and safe. A device in the field with a pressing Food and Drug Administration recall or cyber vulnerability can’t be overlooked. A device might leave the hospital, but the clinical engineering and cybersecurity support for that device does not.

Better asset management will help boost nursing morale

Many hospitals overlook how medical device management can improve nursing satisfaction. A common driver of dissatisfaction is time spent on administrative tasks such as searching for equipment or ensuring it’s clean.

Frontline workers are burned out. Spending an hour looking for an IV pump needlessly exacerbates the frustration and stress. Left unaddressed, mounting dissatisfaction can prompt nurses to quit, which forces hospitals to add supplemental support and squeezes limited financial resources further.

On the other hand, healthcare systems that have an accurate inventory of their clinical assets along with proper processes to ensure their cleaning, storage, and availability, remove some of that nurse frustration. They give nurses time back to spend on patient care, not administrative tasks.

A sound medical-device strategy can also help in another significant way to boost morale: It can free up more money for staffing expenses. By analyzing use data, clinical engineering teams can shift equipment to where it’s needed most, which will reduce rental equipment costs and save operational dollars to be spent on hiring and wages.

Health providers in 2022 will target such specific opportunities, like these three, to improve workplace conditions.

The healthcare industry was already amid rapid change before the Covid-19 pandemic. But the toughest challenges can also bring innovative opportunities. We’ll continue to see further advancements to medical device management that will improve clinical efficiency and patient outcomes.

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About The Author

Scott Trevino’s picture

Scott Trevino

Scott Trevino is the senior vice president of cybersecurity at TRIMEDX. In his role, Trevino leads efforts to define the strategy and deliver increasing value, growth, and evolution of TRIMEDX’s cybersecurity solutions. He collaborates cross-functionally with all parts of the business to drive the strategy and execution. Trevino is responsible for identifying trends in cybersecurity and technology, as well as recognizing and anticipating the evolution of client, market, and industry needs to translate them into market-leading solutions that meet the needs of and bring value to clients.