Hospitals face unique maintenance challenges due to the high and unpredictable demand for different healthcare equipment. There is constant pressure to ensure optimal medical equipment availability and safety.
Timely maintenance is essential for maximizing the availability, durability (extended lifetime), and reliability of multiple hospital equipment, boosting a facility’s compliance with statutory regulations. Hospital maintenance is dynamic, and maintenance managers must establish measures to incorporate emergency maintenance into existing equipment maintenance plans.
Which methods can hospitals leverage to schedule equipment maintenance despite the unique challenges of the healthcare sector?
1. Develop a proactive equipment maintenance program
One of the goals of an effective maintenance program is to prevent equipment from failing. Proactive maintenance reduces the amount of deferred maintenance work and emergency incidents that can be life-threatening while fostering long-term financial planning and keeping maintenance operations predictable.
There are two types of proactive maintenance hospitals can leverage.
Preventive maintenance involves activities implemented over fixed intervals to inspect medical devices and replace some components. The goal is to keep assets running and prevent emergency breakdowns.
Hospitals that use preventive maintenance strategy leverage past maintenance records and manufacturer-recommended intervals to determine effective maintenance cycles. Maintenance managers can prepare for upcoming tasks and assemble all maintenance supplies. They also allocate workloads among employees, reducing the pressure associated with emergency breakdowns.
On the other hand, predictive maintenance (PdM) is a more robust, data-driven strategy relying on condition-monitoring sensors to track the real-time performance of hospital equipment. PdM is beneficial when dealing with critical equipment like life support machines, surgery equipment, and radiology devices. The strategy combines real-time data and advanced algorithms to predict when failures will occur based on prevailing equipment performance.
Predictive maintenance enhances planning by availing accurate data on the actual conditions of equipment. The system generates timely alerts for maintenance teams to implement corrective measures to ensure various pieces of equipment are safe and functional.
Working with a proactive maintenance program simplifies planning irrespective of the number of equipment in a healthcare facility.
2. Utilize a digital asset management system
Manual asset management systems of the past were prone to several errors — duplicate records, incomplete asset information, or wrong asset tags. Such errors mean some equipment runs continuously without adequate maintenance — a risky undertaking for a hospital.
With this in mind, hospitals definitely require a centralized system for tracking each piece of equipment and monitoring its maintenance standards.
Investing in a digital asset management system improves visibility and helps hospitals overcome other challenges, such as wrong spare part purchases that may jeopardize the quality of equipment maintenance.
The system provides a centralized platform to monitor the performance of each piece of equipment alongside detailed maintenance histories. It gives a glimpse into the number of active assets in a facility, allowing them to establish appropriate maintenance schedules and allocate sufficient funds for emergency and scheduled maintenance.
Digitizing asset management means better tracking, reducing theft, and purchasing duplicate maintenance stocks. It enables hospitals to streamline inventory management and planning.
3. Prioritize equipment maintenance tasks
Hospital maintenance teams manage repairs and care of multiple assets. Regardless of the size, each piece of equipment is crucial within the facility. However, some pieces of equipment require more attention than others.
Critical assets like infant incubators, emergency power supply systems, and life support machines require more attention than wheelchairs. This explains why a hospital should develop a hierarchy of maintenance needs. These needs change as the asset ages, equipment usage frequency increases, and facilities install newer equipment.
Hospitals can streamline equipment maintenance scheduling by categorizing assets based on their criticality and the hierarchy of maintenance needs. Critical assets require frequent inspections and testing to remain operational within the recommended levels. Inspections can uncover hidden deficiencies that could reduce equipment reliability or increase its risk of breaking down. Leveraging digital maintenance records and continuous risk assessments allows hospital maintenance teams to identify assets requiring more attention.
A maintenance priority list enables hospitals to stagger preventive and corrective maintenance schedules and develop sustainable measures for combating emergency breakdowns without overstretching lean maintenance budgets or deferring maintenance tasks. Hospitals can also use maintenance priority lists to source hard-to-find (rare) supplies for more predictable maintenance planning.
4. Automate maintenance scheduling using CMMS solutions
CMMS is an all-in-one asset and inventory tracking, maintenance scheduling, employee management, work order organization, and budget planning solution.
It is crucial when developing hospital equipment maintenance schedules — the system centralizes and automates routine maintenance activities, ensuring hospitals undertake relevant maintenance measures at appropriate intervals.
A reliable CMMS solution stores maintenance logs for all equipment in a facility. Hospitals can create a calendar-based preventive maintenance schedule for each piece of equipment.
The system allows maintenance supervisors to remotely approve work requests and update changing maintenance schedules on a need basis. It generates alerts when maintenance is due, preventing the possibility of delayed equipment maintenance.
CMMS solutions help hospitals to build data-driven equipment maintenance strategies. These solutions are compatible with condition-monitoring technologies, simplifying data collection and analysis for optimized maintenance scheduling.
Technicians update the status of completed maintenance work and maintenance supplies used, reducing planning challenges and ensuring optimal visibility of maintenance work. The CMMS solution automatically updates inventory records, allowing the procurement department to monitor stock levels and make fresh supplies whenever stock falls below predetermined levels.
5. Conduct frequent maintenance audits
Hospitals are subject to various external audits to monitor compliance with statutory regulations. These audits examine:
- the quality of maintenance work
- safety of medical devices
- effectiveness of routine operations
The hospitals can improve their compliance standards by devising in-house maintenance audits backed by CMMS solutions and other relevant maintenance data to improve internal processes, identify maintenance bottlenecks, and discover deficiencies in existing maintenance schedules.
Hospitals can quantify the effectiveness of various maintenance operations through audits and update standard operating procedures (SOPs), safety measures, and digital maintenance checklists and manuals to match existing equipment technologies and asset sizes.
The audits help hospitals to eliminate non-effective or costly maintenance schedules and substitute them with data-driven alternatives for better short and long-term planning and budgeting.
Hospitals deal with unique challenges that complicate routine and emergency equipment maintenance schedules. Maintenance managers in these facilities grapple with highly-critical equipment whose demand is unpredictable, yet they must perform regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and safety.
Adopting best maintenance practices backed by digital solutions and enlisting the services of qualified technical teams ensures seamless implementation of corrective and proactive measures. All that streamlines maintenance planning and keeps hospital maintenance costs at sustainable levels. Through proper maintenance planning and execution, hospitals can enjoy extended equipment life and adhere to various compliance and safety standards.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.