The health care industry has always faced a long list of challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse while creating new, often unexpected problems. Now more than ever, facility and maintenance managers need to take control of their maintenance operations, maximizing patient care while minimizing costs. CMMS software finally makes it possible.
Initially, the expectation was that the greatest threat from COVID-19 was that it could overwhelm hospitals. Nation-wide calls to "flatten the curve" were aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, distributing the number of cases over a longer period, allowing facilities to bring in the necessary personnel and supplies. Instead of a spike, the hope was for a gentler curve.
But what ended up happening was unexpected: punishing financial closures for health care providers at both ends of the spectrum, for places with a large number of cases and those that saw only a handful. What connects them? A nearly complete drop in non-emergency patients and elective surgeries, which is where many care facilities see most of their profits. The Washington Post compared two hospitals, UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., with 2,700 COVDI-19 patients, and MU Health Care’s University Hospital in Columbia, Mo., with only about 40. In both cases, "each hospital has canceled more than 2,000 surgeries. Tens of thousands of clinic visits have disappeared. Monthly patient revenue dropped by tens of millions of dollars." The paper then points out that even before the pandemic, "More than 1,200 hospitals operated in the red in two or more of the last five years."
And things could get even worse. There are now reports hospitals are going to face new costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies related to COVID-19.
But before we look at how the right CMMS solution helps health care facilities overcome both existing and new challenges, let's first set out some basic definitions. For example, what falls under the category "health care facility"?
Quick note: As you go through the list, try to keep count of all the different types of assets and equipment required to run these facilities. It's a big number. Health care, at every level, is packed with mission-critical interconnected moving parts that health care professionals depend on to deliver quality patient care.
Types of health care facilities
Before laying out the specific ways a good CMMS can help facility and maintenance managers keep health care facilities running smoothly and solve health care challenges, it's important to get a better idea of just how broad the term "health care facilities" can be.
Ambulatory surgical centers
Streamlined versions of hospital surgical wards, these centers focus on a narrow band of surgical procedures. Advantages include lower costs and a lower risk of infection. Also sometimes called outpatient surgical facilities.
Cost-effective, family-inclusive birth environments. Because they don't have the same equipment as hospitals, they work with pregnancies where there are no known complications.
Safe collection, sorting, and storage of donated blood and platelets. Because blood and blood products cannot be manufactured, these centers are critical for everyone from people with anemia to car crash victims.
Clinics and medical offices
Broad category covering everything from a GP's private practice to a dentist's office, from specialists to walk-in clinics. The common denominator is that they work on an out-patient basis.
Diabetes education centers
Educational opportunities and support for those with or at risk of developing the disease. As the illness becomes more widespread, these centers are becoming more common.
Specialized care for patients with kidney disease, who sometimes require dialysis, blood filtering and cleaning, as many as three times a week.
End-of-life care with a broad mandate to provide not only medical but also emotional care. Although some patients remain in their homes, those with significant needs are moved to hospice homes or specialized nursing homes.
Large health care facilities offering a wide range of medical services, ranging from childbirth to intensive care units for patients with life-threatening injuries. Wards are generally divided between intensive and non-intensive care.
Imaging and radiology centers
Diagnostic imaging services including CT scans, ultrasounds, X-rays, and MRIs. Hospitals often have in-house centers, but outpatient facilities can provide lower costs and better scheduling.
Mental health and addiction treatment centers
Another broad category, but here includes everything from large facilities for many types of mental health care to specialized treatment facilities for specific addictions, including alcohol, illegal, and prescription drugs. Both in-patient and out-patient options exist.
Positioned for patients with long-term medical needs that are not serious enough to require hospitalization but who cannot be cared for at home. In some cases, they're very much like apartment complexes, but with full-time medical staff. Generally for older patients, but some facilities cater to younger residents.
Urgent care centers
On-demand health care that falls between the need for a hospital and a doctor's office. Often used by parents with sick children with everything from a bad flu to a broken arm.
That's a wide range of facilities, but they do tend to deal with a common set of challenges, including:
- Asset reliability
Let's look at how modern maintenance management software helps with each one.
Boost asset reliability with CMMS in health care
Across industries, maintenance teams work hard to keep assets up and running. And the stakes are high. When an important piece of equipment stops working at a manufacturing plant, it affects the bottom line. Time, money, and even people's jobs are on the line. But for health care, the stakes can often be even higher. When the elevator stops working at a hospital, there's no way to move critical patients to an operating theatre. When the HVAC system fails, air quality drops, affecting everyone with breathing difficulties and compromised immune systems. And if the fire suppression or radon gas detection systems fail, it's impossible to quickly move bedbound patients to safety. Lives are at stake.
Modern facility management software solves these health care challenges and ensures uptime by making it much easier to establish, run, and improve a preventive maintenance program, including:
When assets and equipment are new, it's generally best to follow the manufacturers' suggestions for preventive maintenance tasks and frequencies. So, based on the user's manual, you plan to clean the autoclave weekly while its pressure bleed valve gets a visual inspection and testing monthly. Once you have the timing and tasks worked out, you can load them into the CMMS as either time- or meter-based PMs. The software autogenerates the PMs as they come up. When you want to know how the program is performing, you can quickly create reports based on PM close-out rates. Unlike with paper- and spreadsheet-based methods, nothing slips through the cracks. The software remembers when stuff is due and then when it's done.
Remember, back when you were first setting up the PMs, you followed what was in the manual. But over time, the maintenance team starts to know assets and equipment even better than the people who designed and built them. That's why after enough tracking, you can start to fine-tune the program. We used the example before of an autoclave. If you look at your historical PMs and find the pressure bleed valve started sticking about every third week, you can dial in the PMs. Now instead of a visual inspection and test every month, you set them for every two weeks.
Increase safety with CMMS in health care
A nearly universal principle in health care is Primum non nocere, which translates to "First, do no harm." The idea is simple: don't make things worse. If we're trying to help people, the absolute last thing we want to do is hurt them in the process.
For the maintenance teams in health care, it's the same. The last thing they want is for someone to come to their facility seeking help only to get hurt again. Imagine if someone with a broken arm falls on the stairs because the railing was loose. An addict at a recovery center gains access to prescription drugs because a door lock was broken. An elderly patient suffering from dementia walks away from the facility because the door alarm failed to sound. To make sure that doesn't happen, things need to get fixed as quickly and as perfectly as possible. The right facility management tool makes your team fast, more efficient.
We've already looked at preventive maintenance, so let's jump over to on-demand work orders. As soon as someone notices a problem, they can alert the maintenance department using the open maintenance request portal. Instead of sending a rambling email or leaving an incomplete voice mail, they fill in a quick online form. And because it has predefined data fields, the maintenance team is guaranteed to get the information it needs. Right away, the maintenance lead can review and approve the request, generate, prioritize, and assign a work order, and then track it all the way to close out.
And because of what's included in the work order, techs can get more done faster. Instead of notes scribbled on paper or a few details crammed into a spreadsheet cell, CMMS work orders come packed with useful information, including:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Comprehensive asset information
- Digital copies of schematics, images, and O&M manuals
- Associated parts and materials
- Interactive maps and floor plans
They never need to head back to the office to pick up or drop off paperwork. They never have to run back to the supply closet to get a part or tool they forgot or didn't realize the needed until halfway through a task. No more running around asking other techs how to do something. And that last one on the list, interactive maps and floor plans, is especially helpful. Even a small hospital can be a bit of a maze. Now techs go exactly where they're needed.
Stay on the go with CMMS mobile app in health care
A good CMMS solution includes a CMMS app that expands the range of available features by tying directly into a mobile device's hardware and software, helping techs work more efficiently on the go.
Maintenance app and push notifications
A CMMS already makes it easy to keep your technicians in the loop by centralizing data and work order management. A good mobile app takes it a step further with push notifications. Now, instead of waiting for techs to log into the software so they can see their new assignments, you can use the app on their mobile device to alert them instantly. Every time you assign them to a new work order, their phone chimes while the app displays a message across the screen.
It's the same basic difference between an old-style email and a text message. When you send an email, you have to wait for the person to log into their account to see it. With a text message, they know right away.
For most health care maintenance departments, especially when they have a CMMS, most work orders should be coming from the preventive maintenance program, which means you're scheduling the work in advance. But even world-class maintenance involves on-demand work orders, and when you need to pivot quickly, push notifications are a fast way to prioritize work and reposition your resources.
Maintenance app and bar codes
For example, techs can use their phone's built-in camera to scan bar codes or QR code labels on assets to access asset data and associated open work orders quickly. This is especially useful when working on preventive maintenance. When a tech needs to repair an HVAC unit, it's easy for them to find the right one. Even if there are ten identical units close together on the roof, only one of them going to be obviously in need of work. But for when it's a PM inspection or tasks, there's no easy way to know which of the ten to work on. A quick scan ensures techs complete the right work on the right assets.
Maintenance app and direct image uploads
Techs can also use the camera to upload images directly to work orders. Once they've uploaded the picture, the rest of the maintenance team can see them, opening a lot of time-saving possibilities. First, if the tech is having trouble with a repair, they can upload images and ask the team for suggestions. Instead of running around the facility trying to track down help, they can stay onsite and request it remotely. Pictures are also an effective way to document their work. Just before closing out the work order, they can request a remote visual inspection.
Maintenance app and offline sync
Another important feature of a mobile maintenance app is the ability to work offline. Hospitals and other health care facilities can be big places, often with spots where Internet access is either not possible or allowed. Administrators have changed the rules over time, but there are still many areas where they have banned cellphone use because of the fear it can interfere with critical equipment.
Apps make offline work possible by storing information and then pushing it to the central database once the device is back in range. The benefit is that techs don't need to remember important data; they can enter it into their app in real time, ensuring better accuracy.
Achieve (and prove) compliance with CMMS in health care
There are always two parts to compliance. The first is getting the work done properly and on time. The second is proving you got the work done properly and on time. If you're struggling under an old-fashioned paper- or spreadsheet-based system, it's the second part that's often the real challenge.
With older methods, you start without an easy way to get data into the system. Everything is either written out longhand or punched into endless columns and rows across multiple independent files. Because it's not easy, you end up with a lot of bad data; either people are too frustrated to bother entering inaccurate data. Or even when everyone is trying their best, there's too much room for human error. Then, even if your data is accurate, it's hard to keep it both safe and accessible.
Modern facility management software solves this problem because your solution provider does all the IT heavy lifting for you. They take care of the software, continually improving and updating it seamlessly behind the scenes. They also take care of all the hardware, which means you don't have to spend any money installing or servicing expensive, complicated servers.
The software is backed by cloud computing, which means all your data is kept secure in one central database. The advantage is that as soon as anyone updates the data, for example generating a new work order or closing one out, everyone can see the changes. You're not dealing with multiple versions--all but one of them out of date--spread out over multiple pieces of paper or files. And now that your data is accurate, your CMMS solution also makes it easy to automatically generate reports packed with maintenance KPIs and metrics. It crunches all the numbers for you.
Compliance is all about capturing the right data, keeping it safe, and then using it to generate reports. The right facilities management software makes every step of the process faster, easier, and more reliable.
Get started with CMMS in health care
If you don't have a CMMS yet, or you have one that's failing to deliver what you were promised, it's time to take control of your maintenance program. Remember that the next step after reading about CMMS online is to reach out to providers and get the conversation started.