Mobile medical equipment (MME), such as an IV pump, is handled countless times a day by hospital staff and patients and moved regularly from room to room. Yet, it’s well-documented that some hospitals fall short in adhering to best practices for disinfecting and managing equipment usage.1 Facilities need standardized MME cleaning procedures to protect patients, and also need these procedures to be operationally efficient to ensure clinical staff isn’t spending time away from patients tracking down the resources they need to provide care.
To gain insights into these issues, two GE Healthcare subject matter experts were asked to discuss the related challenges facing hospitals and how a standardized, well-designed Disinfection & Distribution (D&D) program can help address them. Scott Tryba, Senior Operations Director, and Kellyann Yates, Healthcare Technology Management Program Manager, have collaborated with healthcare systems across the US to help them create effective D&D programs that meet each systems’ unique needs and desired outcomes.
Question: What challenges are facilities struggling with related to the disinfection and distribution of mobile medical equipment?
Kellyann Yates: Contamination of reusable medical equipment is a key factor in the spread of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). Mobile medical equipment that is used to care for one patient and improperly reprocessed can transmit healthcare-acquired pathogens that lead to HAIs. Clinical staff can be left guessing whether equipment is disinfected if there are no clear processes in place.
Also, manufacturer and infection control protocols can be ambiguous. Frequently, disinfection guidelines are viewed as not very specific pertaining to MME, leading to potentially sub-optimal disinfection processes.
Scott Tryba: Compliance issues and audit-related penalties can result from poorly designed and documented disinfection and distribution processes.
In addition, clinical staff lose time and productivity each shift in search of – and sometimes also cleaning – equipment, leading to time spent away from patients. This can lead to hoarding or capital expenditures on additional equipment that isn’t truly needed.
Q: How can a well-planned Disinfection & Distribution program help address these problems?
KY: A well-planned, controlled Disinfection & Distribution program can help on several fronts. It can reduce the likelihood of cross-contamination by maintaining a consistent, visibly recognizable inventory of clean and available mobile medical equipment.
By providing clear ownership of the D&D process, standardized disinfection protocols and cleaning agents, and documented processes and training, a facility helps ensure regulatory readiness and compliance.
ST: Equipment is disinfected and distributed throughout a facility as close as possible to clinical staff and patients based on need. Having the MME in the right place, at the right time in the right condition can help reduce staff frustration and improve productivity, resulting in a better patient experience.
Demand and utilization trend data captured from D&D programs can be used to help a facility decrease the amount of equipment necessary to ensure patient care and reduce compliance risks with a proper rental entry and exit process. For example, one multi-facility health system implemented a more efficient D&D program across their enterprise and realized an $800,000 reduction in infusion pump rental costs after only a year.
Q: What are the key components of a Best-in-Class Disinfection & Distribution program? What considerations should be kept in mind when implementing one?
ST: Ultimately, the key to a successful implementation is cultivating executive leadership to buy into and take ownership of the D&D program. This includes key department heads, particularly the Chief Nursing Officer, Chief Financial Officer, the Operations Department, which oversees the movement of MME, and Infection Control.
KY: A comprehensive D&D program should have a dedicated environmental staff that disinfects equipment based on standardized protocols in accordance with OEM specifications and the guidelines of the facility. This staff could be supplied by the facility or provided externally.
To ensure ongoing quality and process control, the program should also include onsite management personnel to oversee all activities, including training and auditing the Disinfection & Distribution staff.
Another consideration is to incorporate real-time location system (RTLS) tracking technology into the D&D program. An effective RTLS serves as a mobile equipment manager, using a web-based application viewable on computers, phones and tablets to track MME usage and digitally manage equipment inventory. RTLS technology can aid in monitoring available MME, tracking misplaced equipment and balancing inventories across multiple departments and facilities.
ST: Because most organizations struggle with change, change management support should also be provided to the facility throughout the implementation of a new D&D program. Good communication and engagement through ongoing touchpoints are essential in gaining acceptance while working with facility staff to design the equipment flow that best suits their needs. Building trust, especially among department leaders and clinical staff, is paramount.
Implementing a new D&D program takes approximately thirty days to six weeks to change and reinforce processes, depending on the size of the facility and scope of the program. Building trust and understanding among clinical staff can take longer. In the end, investment of this time and effort to implement a standardized, controlled Disinfection & Distribution program can mean fewer capital expenditures on equipment, leaner and more efficient MME management, and more time spent providing patient care rather than searching for clean equipment.
- Implementing and Sustaining Best Practices in Mobile Equipment Disinfection, Becker’s Hospital Review, January 2014.https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/quality/implementing-and-sustaining-best-practices-in-mobile-equipment-disinfection.html Accessed January 10, 2020