By Tom Stanford, From the May 2018 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine
Everyday consumers are technology savvy and inseparable from their mobile devices. Ubiquitous mobile service and modern, user-friendly applications have ushered in a tidal wave of digital transformation. Health care systems and their health care technology management (HTM) programs are struggling to keep pace. HTM programs, and the clinical engineering teams responsible for managing them, need to modernize to meet the needs of an increasingly competitive and informed patient care marketplace. The new frontier is better, smarter, and faster HTM using modern enterprise asset management (EAM). For health care systems using legacy CMMS, the digital transformation is taking place without them.
Modern health care is a big, growth business. As each participant in the care cycle leans in, there will be incremental benefits and improved safety for patients. Patient care is being delivered with increasingly sophisticated and network-aware medical devices. Not surprisingly, the health care technology ecosystem is growing increasingly complex, elevating risk and liability. Despite these growing complexities, health care systems cannot afford to lose focus on the primary objective of delivering safety, a positive patient experience, and quality care.
Hamstrung by legacy technology
Consolidation, mergers and acquisitions are changing the health care system landscape as provider size and complexity expand. Smaller health care systems are challenged to deliver greater differentiation, cost efficiency, modern technology, compliance and patient volume. Larger health care systems are acquiring with the promise of better economics and superior patient care delivery. As consolidation accelerates, the shortcomings and challenges of stand-alone hospital CMMS technology become readily apparent. CMMS was designed as a single hospital, single facility maintenance management system. For today’s growing multi-hospital, multi-facility health care systems, CMMS is inadequate. These technologies were never designed to meet the demands of a modern, mobile-first, network connected, and cyber-aware health care system.
Perpetuating legacy CMMS has left clinical engineering lagging in terms of modern technology. Limited mobile, lack of off-line functionality and cumbersome, inadequate reporting are among the key challenges facing health care technology ecosystems using CMMS. These limitations make it challenging to ensure data accuracy and hygiene, and efficient use of increasingly hard-to-find clinical engineering resources. Legacy CMMS also limits the ability to obtain meaningful operational data needed for optimized full-life cycle medical device management. These challenges cost health care systems time, effort and financial resources.
How do you become a state-of-the-art HTM organization in the current environment?
Clinical engineering teams need to be the drivers of change and collaborate more closely with their peers in IT. This requires breaking down long-standing barriers that have existed between these two important organizations. As more workflows and tasks transition to the cloud, this could serve as common ground and allow these two teams to get on the same page in terms of better, smarter and faster HTM. Working together, both organizations can help bring forward creative solutions and application of more modern technology and approaches. At the same time, as partners, clinical engineering and IT can create the needed momentum to get rid of the entire ecosystem of antiquated and time-consuming processes that were put in place to prop-up and triage legacy CMMS technology.
Adopting a mobile-first strategy
The world now operates in a mobile-first environment. Clinical engineers and IT staffers are no longer managing a substantial portion of their HTM tasks at a desktop. Service management workers in a health care system need to be able to do their tasks no matter where they find themselves within the hospital footprint. Task completion must be accomplished, independent of whether Wi-Fi or a network connection is available. Fully transitioning to the cloud and using a cloud-based platform alleviates these challenges and give clinical engineers more data in real time to drive better service management decisions and positively influence patient experience and safety. A compounding issue for the health care system is availability of new clinical engineering talent. A drought is underway. To compete for resources, the health care system must move to a portfolio of modern, cloud-based, mobile-first technologies. Who wants to work on technology built in the 1990s? Health care systems with advanced HTM programs using modern technology will more effectively recruit, develop and retain quality resources.
Protecting connected medical devices
Connected medical device cyber security is a clear and present danger for health care systems. Moving past legacy CMMS and onto a modern, cloud-based alternative provides essential protection against cyber security threats. Health care systems need to make every effort to mitigate cyber security risk and protect patient safety and data. Embracing the cloud to meet increasingly complex and demanding regulatory, patient care and safety requirements for HTM is necessary.
Medical devices represent one of the most vulnerable attack surfaces for today’s cyber criminals. Bridge-building between clinical engineering, IT and security teams is necessary to mitigate these risks. These efforts cannot derive any meaningful outcomes without modern cloud computing. Using the cloud, all three teams work together to optimize onboarding and create a single source for capturing all required data elements for properly managing a connected medical device’s cybersecurity profile.
Adoption of a flexible, mobile, cloud-based platform will deliver better work order management, patient care, safety and productivity. The health care systems will gain security, efficiency, mobility and of course, increased patient satisfaction. Properly deployed, a modern cloud platform lowers capital and operating expenses and facilitates new investment and transformation for the health care system.
The time to get rid of legacy CMMS systems is now.