Misplaced and wasted healthcare equipment account for an annual cost of $765 billion to healthcare providers. In the United States, there have been several cases reported where functional medical equipment was either disposed to waste facilities or gotten lost due to poor management practices. According to a report by Santa Clara Medical Center, 383 medical items and equipment went missing between 2010 and 2014, which included incubators, heart monitors, and mammography machines. The investigation of the incident revealed that the inefficient inventory performance and monitoring system is the reason behind the medical equipment been missing. In general, these issues are not unique and there is tremendous room for improvement for all healthcare facilities.
The problem of missing medical instruments is not limited to any particular part of the country or vertical within the healthcare industry, its a systemic issue that plagues all providers. According to a news report by The Detroit News, physicians, nurses, and surgeons in Texas have reported multiple cases of missing surgical and medical equipment over a long period of 11 years through multiple emails. The emails also included multiple complaints about poorly managed and dirty surgical equipment. These events have led to several last-minute cancellations of surgeries and even interruptions during surgical procedures. The report highlights an incident with a children’s hospital in which 186 complaints were logged regarding missing surgical instruments along with other faults with the supplies. The same issue has been faced by Detroit Medical Center, where thousands of surgeries are performed annually. Having a well thought out supply chain and equipment monitoring program will be helpful in reducing unnecessary costs or procedural disruptions.
Also, each month, nurses waste time trying to find the equipment they are looking for. It is calculated that the nursing staff spends 1 week per month on average looking for equipment that disappears from the facilities. The report suggests that this situation needs to be confronted; however, financial constraints make it difficult for every healthcare facility to track their inventories regularly.
It is obvious that financial concerns should be easily dismissed. Any implementation of a more sophisticated tracking and equipment management system will benefit the bottom line tremendously.
These incidences reflect that there is a need for in-depth monitoring of the supply chain of medical instruments. The Detroit News article reports that DMC has collaborated with Unity HealthTrust of Birmingham to manage the process of dealing with dirty and unsterilized surgical instruments. The same approach can be used to keep a check on the missing equipment and report any leads or information to stakeholders. Reliance on third parties and software like UptimeHealth, for monitoring purposes, can save a lot of time.
The use of computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) technologies to track equipment, such as Asset Management Software or the Internet of Things or IoT technology has become increasingly popular for supply chain purposes. Not only will this approach eliminate the need of hiring more staff to monitor and manage the medical supplies, but it will also help the staff to order equipment in advance to avoid supply shortages. Real-time tracking of inventory provides maximum visibility as compared to RFID technology that has already been in use by many medical facilities.
A better approach to avoid the increasing cases of missing equipment is by ordering just the right amount of inventory. Knowing how much inventory you have and always keeping an accurate count on hand will help keep things under control and make it hard for culprits to take out items without getting noticed. This approach can be implemented through advanced IT infrastructure and data analytics that come with software like UptimeHealth. Data analytics can help determine the demand for medical equipment in the future by looking at past trends. These innovations can help save costs and achieve customer as well as employee retention due to better managerial reputation.
Lastly, all of these scenarios point towards the need for proper implementation of new guidelines for healthcare providers. As we mentioned earlier, medical instrument faults and missing equipment have often interrupted surgeries midway. This shows the lack of planning and management of staff who fail to monitor the equipment beforehand. There is a need to implement certain protocols to ensure that these problems never arise.