We have recently started to focus on measuring and tracking available equipment. I have always tracked the completion of PM and repairs but did not really consider measuring the availability of equipment. I have discovered after working with nursing on a couple of projects that this is very important to our nurses. It is possible that by measuring and improving equipment availability we can positively affect nursing satisfaction and improve patient throughput.
I have had the opportunity to work for many different organizations, (while staying in the same location) and have been trained, coerced and exposed to many initiatives to improve patient satisfaction and nurse satisfaction. These programs and the money spent on implementing them illustrate how important nurse and patient satisfaction is in our industry. It has always been a struggle to apply what we do daily as a support department to these initiatives and programs. I often felt like we were driving a square peg through a round hole in trying to move these initiatives forward.
I am not sure what it is like at other facilities lately, but our hospitals are busy and running near and sometimes over capacity. During one of our management staff meetings, we were all challenged to improve our patient throughput. In an effort to support this challenge I met with our nurse manager and asked what they needed from biomedical engineering. Their comments were around ensuring they had their basic equipment available like thermometers, pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors. I was told that at times a patient can’t be discharged until their vitals are confirmed to be good and if they can’t find the equipment it can delay the discharge.
We have started measuring available equipment to help improve this situation. We divide the number of “cannot locate” +“out of service” devices by the total number of devices in the inventory. Our goal is to improve this number by 10 percent. By going through the exercise of analyzing and measuring it helps me understand what departments need help finding equipment and if we need to increase the amount of equipment in a department.
We are still in the early stages of monitoring this so I am not sure how our improvement efforts will bear fruit, but I feel confident that we should be able to make a difference. Already I am noticing that equipment that is handled by our equipment distribution program seems to be less likely to be lost. This is not surprising to me as nurses aren’t always focused on managing their equipment. The distribution program delivers, picks up, cleans and stores equipment, this is very helpful as it keeps the stock in one area and it can be deployed where the need is instead of being located in a department where there isn’t a present need for it.
For the past couple of years, our industry narrative has been focused on maintenance requirements and what should or can be on an AEM program. But maybe our focus should be on available equipment? I don’t want to imply that preventative maintenance isn’t important, especially on equipment that actually has procedures that help prevent failures. But the majority of what we do is a performance check, which does little to prevent failures. I believe ensuring our nurses have what they need when they need it has just as much, or even more, benefit for our patients than performance checks. Monitoring and managing equipment availability is certainly a worthwhile activity.
Jim Fedele, CBET, is the director of clinical engineering for Susquehanna Health Systems in Williamsport, Pa. He can be reached for questions and/or comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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