Why are we still using the calendar to determine when maintenance is required for medical devices? For over half a century, industry has had equipment and machinery that reports run time thereby enabling users to know when maintenance is due. Why is it that most medical devices have not incorporated these types of systems into their design? We all know that in a given time period, some devices sit idle while others are in constant use. It would make sense for us to spend more time testing and maintaining devices that are used heavily and less time on those that sit idle.
My ten year old automobile has a digital screen that lets me know when maintenance is due. Unlike medical devices, this system is based on conditions of use and not on a calendar time period. Automobile manufacturers know that every driver uses their vehicle differently. Some are used daily for long trips, while others constantly stop and start as they creep through heavy traffic, a few even sit unused in their owner’s garage on most days of the month.
General Motors uses their “On Star” system in their vehicles. “On Star” automatically runs hundreds of diagnostic and maintenance checks on a vehicle’s key operating systems and delivers a summary report right to the owner’s email inbox every month. The summary includes diagnostic information on the drive train, air bag condition and other key components. Also included is information highlighting upcoming periodic maintenance requirements and any pending recall notifications. It would be wonderful if medical devices were capable of sending periodic reports directly to the CMMS without BMETs having to spend valuable time tracking them down for testing.
Every device that uses digital technology has some sort of internal clock. Many also have other sensors to indicate operational status. How difficult would it be to add a circuit that counts the hours and condition of a device’s use to alert us when it needs maintenance? My car’s on screen maintenance alert is designed to give me enough advance notice so that I can continue a trip without worry. How difficult would it be to incorporate a similar circuit in a medical device?
I know that every change and added design feature adds costs to a product, but those costs would be quickly be recovered by hospitals. During each device’s lifetime hundreds of dollars would be saved by reducing the amount of unnecessary testing, and the time spent tracking plus the costs of removing a device from service unnecessarily. Is it time we moved out of the dark ages?
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