Health Technology Management (HTM) programs are designed to manage, repair, and support acquisition of medical devices and technologies to meet hospitals' needs. If an HTM program isn’t properly resourced to execute these functions, the extent to which it can successfully operate is significantly restricted. This can result in excessive procurement and service costs, reduced operational standards, and increased quality concerns.
To restore an HTM program’s efficacy, a hospital should take a holistic view of its approach to technology management. Being open to redesigning and upgrading not only the program’s structure and processes, but also adjacent processes, can be instrumental to achieving desired outcomes. Ever-increasing financial pressures and reimbursement rate reductions that hospitals face also means, however, that changes must be cost-effective.
Centralization, improved data utilization, and innovative thinking are guiding principles that should be prioritized on the journey to reinvigorate any HTM program.
Operational inefficiencies and financial waste are among the most apparent effects of decentralized HTM processes. Others, like asset underutilization and deteriorating patient satisfaction, can emerge more slowly.
Centralizing HTM processes can help improve capital planning, asset utilization, standardization, and patient experience. It will also help to reduce operational errors, close communication gaps, decrease equipment downtime, and help ensure patient safety.
For instance, sequestering control of interdependent operations prevents an HTM program from achieving standardization and maximum efficiency. Leaving information siloed also has the same effect. For this reason, control of processes like inventory management, product recall, equipment hazard reporting, and service calls for repair should be centralized and integrated. There should also be a free flow of information between the primary personnel handling these operations.
To improve its HTM program, a hospital needs to embrace a transparent and proactive data strategy. More specifically, data on both assets and HTM processes need to be gathered, analyzed, shared, and utilized in decision-making. Not only will this help control costs, but it will also help improve asset utilization, clinical efficiency, and patient experience.
- Tracking equipment performance: To validate acquisition and capital purchase decisions, a hospital should proactively work with staff and suppliers to monitor equipment performance. Additionally, for easier future decision-making, tracked performance should be built into a data set that can be easily accessed and updated by HTM personnel.
- Performing root-cause analysis: Rather than only addressing maintenance issues at the surface, root-cause analysis should be the standard used when troubleshooting. The exact problems being experienced, along with the HTM processes around those problems, should be identified and resolved using all available data.
- Improving maintenance scheduling: Tracking medical equipment usage data can help a hospital improve equipment service scheduling and reduce downtime. For example, being able to pinpoint peak equipment usage periods means that servicing, cleaning, and distribution can be scheduled at off-peak times to minimize disruptions to patient care.
- Monitor asset utilization closely: Hospitals may procure additional medical assets because of internal anecdotal pressure indicating they are under-equipped. Many times, this decision is not grounded in data. One analysis found that, over a period of 15 years, mobile clinical devices per staffed bed increased in number by 62% on average. Yet, the average utilization of mobile devices remained at a low 42%.1 This acquisition of unnecessary equipment, along with the expense of related service costs, is a high expense that a hospital doesn't actually need to incur. Hospitals should continuously gather data on asset acquisition, actual clinical needs and usage patterns. This data should then be mobilized to create policies and procedures governing an initial inventory reduction and subsequent efficient management, distribution, and replacement of equipment to suit clinical workflow and true need.
Effective technology management in an ever-changing industry like healthcare also requires modern and novel approaches to the supply chain and HTM sourcing.
Upgrade supply chain management
Supply chain is an area where the stakes—costs and patient care quality—are particularly high. Ninety-eight percent of C-suite and supply chain leaders believe better supply chain management can improve hospital margins and 86% acknowledge that improving supply chain management would enhance care quality.2
Despite this, hospital supply chains continue to lag in efficiency and innovation. Reports show that nearly half (46%) of hospitals still use manual processes like spreadsheets to manage supply chain data.2 Physicians and front-line clinicians often have to participate in counting and tracking supplies manually— resulting in strain and significant declines in workplace productivity.
To deal with this, advanced, automated technology can be deployed to manage complementary supply chain and HTM processes. For instance, a hospital can use technology like real-time location systems (RTLS) or radio-frequency identification (RFID) to manage inventory-tracking.
Strategically-source HTM needs
Instead of taking a fragmented approach to addressing technology management needs by outsourcing similar processes to different vendors, hospitals employing a strategic sourcing model to meet these same needs can experience a variety of benefits. Consolidating purchased services into a single contract reduces administrative burden. Strategically standardizing asset coverage can reduce operating expenses by as much as 15%. Managing assets through a single agreement can provide a hospital with better transparency to inventory management. Aligning with a proven HTM vendor who can manage the entirety of a hospital’s asset lifecycle is critical to the success of this approach.
By taking a holistic approach to Healthcare Technology Management, hospitals can modernize and revitalize their programs. Done well, this effort can reduce operating expenses, streamline and standardize processes, and improve maintenance quality.
- “Out of Control: How clinical asset proliferation and low utilization are draining healthcare budgets.” GE Healthcare, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5646/04f2d85b2c0d6968351cc42e32ba49c71f99.pdf. Accessed February. 12, 2020.
- “The largely untapped value opportunity: Optimizing supply chain management.” Sage Growth Partners (SGP) and Syft. https://www.syftco.com/report/optimizing-supply-chain.html Accessed February. 12, 2020.