From the August 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Greg Doherty
When a CT or MR scanner fails unexpectedly, the resulting downtime can forfeit several thousand dollars per day in scan revenue, to say nothing about the cost of an emergency repair.
As health care executives can attest, that is often the tip of the iceberg. The effects of unplanned downtime can ripple out to include staff and clinician dissatisfaction, a decline in referring physician confidence, harm to the hospital’s reputation and loss of patients to competing institutions.
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This is why my organization subscribes to remote proactive monitoring for many of its three dozen CT systems and 19 MR scanners. Proactive monitoring can detect anomalies in device operations, enabling us to be notified so that repairs can be scheduled before a failure occurs. This form of monitoring has significant value to our organization and to health care in general.
Full utilization of diagnostic devices is paramount. There is substantial value in being able to predict when failure might occur and thus preventing unplanned downtime. A less measurable, but still meaningful, benefit is peace of mind that critical devices are being watched and that our staff will receive an alert if something is amiss, even if from the users’ perspective all seems to be functioning normally.
Proactive monitoring is part of a spectrum of online service offerings that also include device software upgrades, remote technical support and remote diagnostics with online fixes that do not require a field engineer visit. An added benefit of remote technology is that when a service visit is required, the field engineer can arrive prepared with all necessary parts and tools and with an action plan to make a prompt repair.
Over the years, UnityPoint Health has experienced both unplanned scanner downtime and the benefits of proactive monitoring. The in-house clinical engineering team provides service to an organization that delivers coordinated clinic, hospital and home-based care for more than 5 million patient visits each year across Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Proactive monitoring is an automated process that measures a set of system parameters and uses fault recognition algorithms to detect errors and malfunctions. On detection of a potential event, such as the failure of a CT tube, a message is sent automatically to a technical expert who makes an evaluation and, if warranted, notifies the clinical engineering team and recommends corrective measures. The service then can be scheduled during idle times, such as overnight, so that patient exams are not affected.