Medical carts have become indispensable extensions of healthcare technology. Any cart defect, damage, or malfunction that slows down the caregiving process and keeps clinicians from doing their jobs creates dissatisfaction that can affect caregivers, administrators, and even patients. The good news is that you have great options for quickly improving your situation.
It’s not uncommon to have a high percentage of carts out of service at any given time – 50% at one leading healthcare system in the Northeast – due to wheels falling off and faulty power systems. The supply chain limitations during the pandemic have only made things worse. At many facilities, caregivers have resorted to keeping faulty units plugged in at all times, which significantly cuts their value as a mobile solution. We’ve heard reports that WOW graveyards are growing in almost every health system, primarily due to the scarcity of parts. It’s becoming a real problem just finding a place to store faulty units.
The three tips below will help you significantly improve your fleet uptime, make your clinicians more effective, and reduce your total cost of ownership for point-of-care hardware.
Tip 1. Decide Whether to Replace or Maintain
Idle carts offer no value and degrade the quality of patient care and clinician engagement.
You’ve already invested significantly in your current cart fleet. Financially, does it make more sense to replace those units or repair them?
Here’s a simple formula to help you decide:
Cost to Maintain = Units x $2,500
Cost to Replace = Units x $4,500
Tip 2. Review Your Current Cart Maintenance Process
First, assess your cart landscape. How many carts do you have, where are they located, what is the quality of each cart, and how many repair tickets are being written and how frequently? Then develop a plan based on the total number of carts and where they are located within your network.
Set yourself up for fast repair and issue resolution by setting up a comprehensive cart maintenance program in which you:
- Consistently use a ticketing system to allow end-users to record failures and document resolutions.
- Reserve a small bank of spare, functional workstations. This ensures that when units fail, healthcare workers only have to wait minutes to get back online, not hours or days.
- Create a maintenance schedule with your technicians, or a healthcare IT consultant, to regularly perform break-fix services on-site.
- Also engage this team to conduct routine preventive maintenance, which should include physically inspecting carts and peripherals, and running diagnostic routines to confirm all assets are in proper and safe working order.
- Explore extended warranties. Some healthcare IT partners offer extended warranties beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. These can save additional money over the life of the workstation.
To jump-start this process, a good healthcare IT consultant can deliver a thorough cart assessment, usually at a relatively small fee. Depending on the size of your fleet and its location, you can get a thorough assessment in as little as a couple of days. For a large fleet with multiple locations, expect 2 weeks.
Tip 3. Use Software to Extend the Life of Your Hardware
The growth of cloud-based software has given hospitals the ability to keep precise track of the location and service needs of their medical carts and other mobile assets. Think of it as software optimizing hardware.
eKinnex by Ergotron is a proactive medical workstation fleet management tool that tracks things like battery life and drawer access and is supported on all Ergotron carts.
WiFi connectivity issues plague everyone, everywhere. Frequently, the lack of connectivity is a driver issue installed on the device. 7Signal’s solution proactively notifies its users when a device has become disconnected and provides valuable information on the exact nature of the malfunction.
Futura’s Healthcare’s asset management software helps you keep track of your fleet and ties into your hospital’s existing case management: asset location, maintenance history, repair tickets, etc.
These applications provide a wide range of functionality that can:
- Monitor carts and components to keep them operating at top efficiency.
- Send notifications to staff that cut down on guesswork and expedite maintenance checks.
- Track critical metrics on battery life and power management, and pinpoint the right time for cart battery replacement.
- Proactively notify users of WiFi connectivity issues and how to resolve them.
If you’re working with partners, make sure they have the experience to support your entire configuration, including hardware and peripherals. The manufacturer, for example, will not support your peripherals. When there is one clear owner of the entire ecosystem, issues take less time to resolve. Finding the source of an error can sometimes require analyzing an action across the entire chain of hardware and peripheral interactions. When there is no clear owner, we see a lot of “the error is over there” behavior. To avoid this, work with someone who will take responsibility for the full system.
The COVID-19 hangover will hopefully fade, but valuable lessons have been learned. By employing many of the recommendations above, one healthcare system in the Northeast achieved a cart uptime upwards of 90%.
Whether you take on the challenge internally or assign it to a trusted healthcare IT partner, these initiatives will improve the working conditions of your front-line caregivers, reduce disruption, maximize your investment, and extend the value and utility of your medical cart fleet.
How have your efforts to fully utilize your carts worked out? Let us know in the comments below.