A common complaint in many hospitals is that BMETs spend too much unproductive time trying to locate infusion pumps when they are due for planned maintenance. Sometimes when they finally do manage to track down a pump they find it is in use on a patient and not available for testing. It is very frustrating for managers to know that highly trained technicians spend more time looking for things than testing them. Some hospitals have adopted RFID to assist them in locating pumps, but even with the location assistance provided by RFID, there is no guarantee that the pump will not be in use and available for testing.
One of the simplest ways to reduce the time wasted trying to locate infusion pumps is to work closely with whichever department in your hospital is responsible for the cleaning and distribution of pumps. In our case, we set up a simple testing protocol that the staff in that department could use to run a quick test on each pump after they finished cleaning it. The test involved inserting a test cassette that we had designed, turning the pump on and seeing if it worked without going into alarm. The second part of the check was to read the due date on the inspection sticker. If the pump was within 30 days of its due date, they set it aside for us to test. Aside from reducing the amount of time BMETs spent locating pumps, there were two additional benefits from this approach; the pumps had already been cleaned before BMETS handled them and the preliminary test assured that only working pumps were distributed to nursing and other departments.
Setting up a program like this requires developing a teamwork approach and learning to work across department lines. This can sometimes be difficult in a hospital where many department heads tend to have a “silo” mentality. If you want to sell this idea to the department responsible for cleaning and distribution of pumps, present it in terms of how they become more efficient by assuring that they distribute only working pumps. Also, discuss how this process minimizes the risk of using pumps with overdue inspection dates.
In addition to working across department lines, we further reduced the amount of time we spent testing pumps by changing the inspection frequency to coincide with the pump’s expected battery life. Our data indicated that we could reasonably expect a safe battery life of eighteen months. Although most batteries were likely to last longer than eighteen months, we wanted to assure that no batteries failed while pumps were in use. To minimize the cost of replacement batteries, we ran all batteries through a reconditioner after removing them from pumps. Batteries that passed the reconditioning test were put into inventory be re-used.
By thinking differently and using a teamwork approach, we were able to increase our departmental efficiency by reducing the time we spent looking for pumps and reduce the total number of tests we performed each year. We also helped assure that pumps that had been cleaned and re-distributed to our nurses were in good working order.
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