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Maximising maintenance services for medical equipment in the UK

Kieran Le Peron
September 29, 2021
6 min. read

The covid-19 pandemic has acutely highlighted the reliance that modern UK hospitals place on medical equipment and technology, from imaging and scanning diagnostic tools to ventilators, to deliver healthcare and save lives.   The need to ensure that medical equipment continues to operate in pressured environments, faultlessly, places renewed focus on the critical role of scheduled and planned maintenance in ensuring optimal performance of diagnostic medical imaging (DMI) tools and other critical medical devices.   Digitising management of the servicing and maintenance of medical equipment can ensure that providers of these services, be it original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or independent service providers, are equipped to support hospitals and healthcare trusts in delivering the best service to patients, even when the circumstances are exceptionally challenging.   Studies have shown that the most frequent cause of medical equipment not functioning properly is poor maintenance, planning and management, while the consequences of ineffective maintenance can have significant impacts; in terms of patient care, on waiting list times, on the morale of healthcare staff and also on the time of senior management in hospitals and healthcare institutions.

Software that supports hospitals’ planned maintenance of medical devices

A typical hospital comprises thousands of medical equipment and devices, from different manufacturers and distributors, many of which require their own preventative or scheduled maintenance plans.   The Health and Social Care Act (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: Regulation 15 ensures that equipment that is used to deliver care and treatment is “clean, suitable for the intended purpose, maintained, stored securely and used properly”.   Medical equipment and device manufacturers (OEMs), independent service providers, or other contractors tasked with maintaining medical equipment and devices can use advanced field service management solutions that include service technician scheduling software to manage planned maintenance jobs.   Advanced field service management software can support compliance with a healthcare organisation’s medical device management policy, which can include centralised maintenance plans and databases for all medical equipment and devices within a hospital.

Data analytics that can adapt and update servicing schedules in real-time

The pandemic has created challenges for service providers that maintain medical equipment. Overstretched hospital staff may not have time to facilitate visits by technicians to carry out routine checks to medical equipment and devices. In exceptionally busy periods, DMI equipment may be in use 24/7 and hospitals may not be able to spare the time for equipment to be taken offline to undergo maintenance.   Advanced field service management software helps OEMs and independent service operators to provide a more flexible and intuitive service, by responding to rapid developments at hospitals which can impact when they can maintain equipment. Field service software processes data from a wide range of different sources to update and optimise schedules in an instant, while ensuring that any revised schedules always optimise field service technicians’ time, to reduce travel time between different hospitals and healthcare facilities.   Technicians will be able to gain instant access to updated schedules with a mobile field service app, wherever they are, whether on route or at another site. This ensures that field service teams do not miss a single service, even when bookings are changed at the last moment, ultimately reducing the chance of an unscheduled maintenance event further down the line because the equipment has not been checked.

Maintenance scheduling software that ensures compliance

In the UK healthcare sector, stringent policies are put in place by healthcare institutions and hospitals to ensure that maintenance of medical equipment and devices adheres to best practice.   OEM service departments, authorised service agents or independent service providers must prove they comply with relevant quality system standards BS EN ISO 13485: (2016) [18] or BS EN ISO 9001: (2015) [19], for example. They may also need to provide documentation that the field service technician is properly qualified or supply other information at the request of the client, such as previous service history records.   Field service management solutions that encompass specialised preventative maintenance software digitise all documentation required to meet compliance, from engineers’ qualifications, to service records for each item of equipment and details of any parts replacements, to availability of equipment loans and as a way of tracking any changes to instructions in relation to equipment.

Time-saving benefits of equipment maintenance software

The ability of field service management software to digitise paperwork and documentation in relation to the provision of maintenance of medical equipment assets can help minimise downtime.   Valuable minutes and hours can be lost to filling out, distributing and authorising paperwork among relevant personnel to enable a service technician to complete maintenance work or repairs to medical equipment. Maintenance work order software can condense the time between a technician being authorised to service equipment or for the work to be signed off by the relevant personnel or management staff within a hospital. The result is reduced downtime of medical equipment, so it can be back in action and treating patients sooner.   Digitalising paperwork also supports audits and inspections by providing a transparent, accurate (eliminating manual data typing and inputting) digital paper trail that instantly gathers up all relevant information within a few clicks of a mobile device.

Use field service management solutions to take medical equipment servicing to the next level

The UK is the third largest medical device market in Europe, and the sixth biggest globally, nearly doubling from £7 billion in 2015 to over £12 billion today.   Hospitals and other healthcare organisations and institutions are seeking speed, reliability and flexibility of support from those companies that supply and service medical equipment and devices. This has helped to create conditions for independent service providers to compete against OEMs for service contracts.   Field service management software can have a critical role to play in ensuring that companies providing maintenance services for medical devices and equipment optimise their offering. Field service management software digitises a wide range of information and sources so it can help providers deliver responsive, efficient and value-added services, which can extend beyond simply providing maintenance, such as providing objective advice, or consultancy in terms of which equipment to procure and install, or to come up with service solutions that aimed at maximising operational lifetime of equipment to ensure a better return on investment for customers.