Planned maintenance: More important for hospitals now than ever

Ronda Swaney

Planned medical device and equipment maintenance to help ensure positive patient care experiences.

Planned maintenance helps companies across various industries manage their most valuable personal assets and prolong their life, value, and usefulness. The same certainly applies to medical assets in a hospital. Proactive maintenance and medical IoT solutions can help to provide structure for the proper, consistent upkeep of devices and equipment that clinical teams need to care for patients.

Additionally, maintenance planning works differently today from how it used to work. The healthcare industry has experienced a larger shift with all kinds of institutions using more connected devices that come with new critical considerations for maintenance. How these institutions plan for and perform maintenance now needs to accommodate this larger digital transformation and the vulnerabilities that come with it.

Planned maintenance starts with solid, informed goals

The lifespan of medical assets is measured in years. Beyond initial purchase costs, their upkeep demands annual budget and staff investments. Healthcare's digital transformation also means that departments now have a greater need for solutions that can help them manage security vulnerabilities and stay up-to-date with new software. In the past, maintenance planning has been a regulated and scheduled process; today, institutions also need to be reactive. The right maintenance tools can help you improve your reactions to issues and vulnerabilities.

How maintenance works in healthcare is shifting because these modern challenges require modern solutions. Institutions have all the same risks regarding maintenance—like ensuring your equipment doesn't break down when you least expect it, causing significant delays that impact patient care and institutional costs. However, new risks also mean that you can't afford to be out-of-date with your tech.

Regular maintenance helps ensure upfront investments pay off in asset longevity, as well as peace of mind that your crucial equipment isn't vulnerable, but instead ready when it matters most for patient care. It also helps you meet the most pressing goals behind planned maintenance. Those goals include:

  • Patient experience: This is the top priority of every healthcare organization. Regular maintenance ensures equipment remains safe and ready for patients when needed. It helps you stay ahead of issues instead of responding to them after the fact.

  • Cost-effectiveness: It's critical to prolong the life of costly medical assets. Planned maintenance keeps patient equipment in top working order and can help to decrease the likelihood of expensive repairs.

  • Staying ahead of cybersecurity and vulnerabilities: Regularly performing software patches as part of your maintenance tasks helps you handle known cybersecurity concerns or time-sensitive vulnerabilities in a timely way. Closing these weak points as soon as you are aware of them helps reduce the risk of cyberattack and improves patient safety.

  • Data-driven decision-making: Medical software solutions can help keep your team informed about how equipment is operating. They can create performance data to help identify which devices are operating effectively and which may be faltering. This data can guide future equipment purchases as well as choices about which vendors provide more reliable devices.

  • Workflow: Planned maintenance can help to improve workflow and ensure devices are ready to go when patients need them by keeping equipment available and in working order. It also improves workflow for biomedical staff who can focus on planned, proactive maintenance rather than reactive and hurried responses to locating and repairing assets. Good workflow and streamlined processes benefit clinicians and patients by limiting worker burnout and disruptions.

  • Asset visibility: Regular maintenance helps you track your inventory, keeping you up-to-date on which machines are available and which are not. It also helps track the useful life of equipment, so you can anticipate and budget for needed replacements or upgrades.

  • Ensuring connectivity: Patient vitals measured and transmitted with medical devices help direct treatment plans and care. Disruptions in connectivity can mean disruptions in care, so it's critical to ensure networks stay up and running. Clinical engineers can augment OEM maintenance schedules with basic cleaning or testing, but they also need to perform preventative maintenance on networking and medical IT systems—not just devices. Everything needs to work together as a system. For example, if monitors aren't functioning properly or aren't sending information to healthcare information technology systems like EMRs, the clinical staff may not know who to contact to escalate the issue, turning confusion into a chain of disruption with multiple departments.

  • Decreased downtime: Proactive maintenance can help to reduce downtime by keeping assets in working order and ready for use by staff and patients.

  • Staying updated about new software releases: Preparing for new software releases should also be part of maintenance planning. New releases often include functional updates and improvements. Staying current ensures you get maximum functionality from your software.

  • FDA recalls: FDA recalls are often voluntary. Staying abreast of current recalls helps you plan for equipment replacement and assess hazards associated with recalled devices.

Guidelines for planned maintenance come from device manufacturers, but additional tools that can provide insight about these key elements as soon as possible are critical for maintenance. While your clinical engineering department can follow the planned maintenance guidelines from an OEM, the right tools can help you monitor your systems and identify an appropriate schedule for maintenance, as well as what the scope of your planned maintenance should look like, from patient safety and cost to cybersecurity.

Key criteria for effective medical IoT solutions

IoT solutions can help you meet your equipment goals and develop an effective planned maintenance strategy. If you're looking to add this type of solution to your hospital, or to replace an existing platform, there are some features to keep in mind.

First, look for a vendor-agnostic tool. Your medical equipment assets may come from a number of vendors, and the right, scalable software can work with them all. Moreover, as you add new devices, your software needs to be able to accommodate that addition. It's critical that your software that can handle more traffic and simultaneous users without any degradation in service. In particular, cloud-ready software can help you scale up and work more efficiently as well, while software with too many synchronous operations or that lacks cloud functionality may not.

Proper handling of patient data obtained through connected medical equipment is a major concern and healthcare is a frequent target of cyberattacks. A key feature of a maintenance solution should be the ability to monitor devices for vulnerabilities like known exploits or weak encryption and ciphers. The FDA distributes recall notices, and your system should have up-to-date insight into these as well. This way, your biomedical engineers know when and how to address any affected equipment.

Just as you have equipment from an array of vendors, you also have multiple systems in place in your healthcare facility. The interoperability of healthcare systems allows different systems, devices, and apps to communicate and share important information. It's beneficial if your software can easily integrate with your current identity management system, real-time location system, or your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

Keeping your devices ready to go is critical for patient care

Time is critical when you're managing biomedical devices. On a day-to-day basis, biomedical engineers need insights into a combination of device inventory, behaviors, and risks, as well as automatic monitoring of device infrastructure. Biomedical teams should be enabled to identify and investigate devices issues without disrupting the patient care experience.

Patient care is at the heart of what every hospital staff member, including those on biomedical teams, do every day and well-maintained devices is a critical component to ensuring patients get the care they need when they need it. Without understanding device behaviors and risks and usage, biomedical teams operate blindly and inefficiently. But, the combination of OEM guidelines and the right software can help with device visibility, so you can keep your devices ready for use rather than spending time searching for devices in need of repair. It's one less thing your biomedical engineers and clinicians need to worry about.

Planned maintenance driven by IoT software can help to keep your devices up to date, locating assets that are due for scheduled maintenance, and provide crucial visibility so that you don't miss a beat to ensure devices are ready to go for patient care.

Learn more about how medical IoT solutions like ReadySeeTM can help you manage your devices, keeping them ready to go, so care teams can deliver the best possible patient care.