How a Robust Inventory Management Leads to Longer Medical Device Lifecycles

Ultrasound machine in a modern operating laboratory

Most health technology decision-makers have probably been talking–and thinking–about "lifecycle management" frequently over the last few months. Okay, make that the last few years.

It's no surprise that biomedical equipment lifecycles are on people's minds. Nationwide, hospitals rely on safe, functional medical devices to deliver quality patient care–up to 7500 per hospital, by some estimates. Since 1980, medical technology has contributed to a 60% decrease in the number of days patients spend in the hospital in the United States.

The latest US Census Bureau data shows that healthcare organizations spent $199.1 billion on medical devices and in-vitro diagnostics, representing 5% of US health expenditures in 2019. But pandemic shortages followed by other global supply chain issues continue to drive up the price of hospital medical supplies, including devices. Add that to rising labor costs and further spending increases–and don't forget the acceleration of healthcare needs in the US population–and you've got a lot of hospitals functioning on razor-thin capital budgets.

Keeping medical devices performing optimally for as long as possible without compromising safety while sustaining meaningful ROI is now more important than ever. To achieve this, most organizations focus on asset lifecycle management. Lifecycle management plans and tools help prevent unnecessary spending and ensure capital is available throughout equipment lifespans, from the initial purchase to repairs, to retirement.

Lifecycle management can also maximize the durability and functionality of medical equipment. However, this is directly connected to the hospital's clinical asset inventory management strategy. A robust inventory management system helps protect and extend the life of biomedical capital assets while contributing to effective lifecycle planning and decision-making.

What shortens medical device lifespans?

Mission-critical hospital biomedical equipment works hard. Spending hours on a hospital floor all week would quickly destroy an average, everyday machine, but medical devices are designed for high durability. Nevertheless, time in the field does eventually take a toll on medical equipment.

The OEM designs a routine preventive maintenance protocol for every device model. This protocol allows BMETs to identify any issues, proactively replace any components that show signs of degrading, and calibrate the machine for optimal performance.

It follows, then, that inconsistent preventive maintenance means some devices remain in the field when they already require servicing.

Other factors that reduce asset lifespans include:

  • Fluid damage
  • Physical stress
  • Delayed repairs
  • Missing upgrades
  • Cybersecurity vulnerabilities

The BMET team can address most of these issues, but only if they can locate the device and access its maintenance and usage history and other pertinent information. That's where inventory management comes in.

Accuracy is the name of the inventory game

Nowadays, almost all hospitals and health systems use a digital asset management solution. However, it's still quite common for tracking to occur in silos, such as using separate tracking databases for infusion pumps housed on different floors. When disparate inventory systems don't communicate, tracking accuracy degrades.

For example, a BMET needs to move a device up from another floor because a pump has a critical alert that needs fixing. Without an organization-wide inventory solution, the risk of losing track of one or both pumps are high in this scenario.

RTLS-tracking for higher accuracy

Missing inventory doesn't just affect utilization–it can result in missed preventive maintenance (PM), improper calibration, or lack of sanitization. All the above contribute to more significant wear-and-tear on the device, not to mention that they all compromise patient safety.

A real-time locating system (RTLS) tracking system uses radiofrequency identification (RFID) to track a unique ID tag affixed to each device. RTLS tracking has many payoffs, including allowing BMETs to do their best work.

But robust inventory management goes beyond tracking.

Comprehensive, data-driven asset management

RTLS-based, organization-wide asset management harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to make recommendations that enhance device functionality. AI inventory solutions continuously perform analytics on clinical asset data to provide reports and insights regarding productivity, service and maintenance history, regulatory issues, failure rate, replaced components, device downtime, and other metrics.

Data-driven systems extend equipment lifespans by informing users and admins about the following:

  • Future repair needs
  • Device recall alerts
  • Recall-related actions
  • Suggested upgrades
  • Potential cyber vulnerabilities
  • Effective cybersecurity patches or controls

These systems can also make recommendations about device deployment to avoid over-utilization. And, of course, they will provide lifecycle data that helps HTMs make repair-or-replace decisions.

What if we can't upgrade the inventory system right now?

If you're still managing any of your inventory on a spreadsheet, know that switching to management software is likely to save your organization enough money to pay for its costs and then some. If you have a system that isn't as comprehensive as you'd like, consider the following:

Upgrade asset-tag labels

Inferior materials can cause RFID readers to misidentify asset ID codes, reducing tracking accuracy. Replace vinyl asset labels with foil labels and use premium-quality polyester bar-code labels.

Integrate cleaning and sanitizing procedures into asset-tracking

This ensures that assets are being cleaned and sanitized regularly. It also helps ensure that equipment isn't unnecessarily overexposed to harsh cleaning solutions.

Start a check-in/check-out system

Using asset ID tags to track who uses which equipment at what time helps optimize device deployment. For example, two days per week, you could swap out an infusion pump spending 14 hours on the floor in one department for one that's only active a few hours a day somewhere else. This way, you're not pushing one device too hard but won't risk overtaxing the second device.

Remember, small actions can add up to actual savings. Investing some time and resources into cybersecurity, safety optimization, and high-quality parts and repairs can each help to safeguard your clinical asset inventory, protecting capital investments and boosting ROI throughout device lifecycles.

Elite Biomedical Solutions is a proud USA manufacturer of top-quality replacement parts that can extend the lifespan of infusion pumps and telemetry systems. Contact us to learn more about partnering with Elite for outstanding products and repair support.

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