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As the head of the hospital's maintenance department, it's easy to make a list of goals. 

The challenge is finding the fastest ways to reach them. 

Before looking at some best practices to help you do it better, it's worth quickly reviewing why hospital maintenance is so important in the first place. 

Why is hospital maintenance important? 

Because it can mean the difference between life and death. 

And it's not only when a high-tech piece of medical equipment stops working. It can be something simple that quickly becomes critical. 

The automatic gate for the visitor parking lot jams. Soon there's a lineup of cars that stretches all the way across the entrance to the emergency room, blocking incoming ambulances. 

The elevators stop working, preventing nurses and orderlies from rushing a critical patient strapped to a gurney to an operating room three floors up. 

A handrail is loose. An elderly patient grabs it to steady themselves, it comes off the wall, and they fall and break a hip. 

Health care maintenance is also important because of all the money involved. It can mean the difference between passing compliance audits and being hit with expensive fines. It can also mean the difference between quick, inexpensive fixes and long, costly, complicated repairs. 

And to bring it back around to the patients, the more money you spend on maintenance, the less there is to invest in patients' health. When the hospital's administrators have to spend money on preventable maintenance, it leaves less money for medicine. 

What are some health care maintenance best practices? 

Here are some concrete steps you can take to improve your hospital maintenance programs and processes. 

Start at the end 

According to American Hospital Association, hospitals and post-acute care providers must comply with 629 regulatory requirements across nine domains. And compliance takes a lot of time and money. According to the same report, across the industry, it costs health care providers $1,200 in compliance overhead every time a patient is admitted. 

Whenever you look at your maintenance management policies and workflows, try to see them through the lens of compliance. Which assets need to be on the top of your list for inspections and repairs? How can you ensure you meet and exceed external auditor's expectations? 

Starting with compliance and then building your workflows based on how best to meet those external requirements helps ensure you can deliver maintenance that meets the hospital's needs and avoids costly fines. 

Mix and match medicines 

If you walk into the emergency room with a sore tummy and a light headache, you can likely expect to wait days before you see a nurse. But when you arrive in critical condition in the back of an ambulance, a whole team of doctors meets you in the parking lot. 

Just like medicine, maintenance has a triage system, where more serious repairs move to the head of the line. 

In other industries, the maintenance team tends to decide the order of work based on the relative cost and complexity of each asset. If it's expensive or has a lot of moving parts, the maintenance team makes that asset a priority. But at a hospital, you also need to look at the possible effects on patients. 

For example, the filters on the oxygen supply might be cheap and easy to maintain and repair, but because they're critical for many of the patients, you need to invest more resources in their maintenance. 

Using a VEN system, you can start to categorize assets and prioritize their maintenance. 

Vital: Critical for basic health services 

Includes: 

  • Electrical generators 
  • Operating room lights 
  • Mortuary refrigerators 

Essential: Important but not critical 

Includes: 

  • Suction pumps 
  • Dental compressors 
  • Physiotherapy ultrasound 

Not so essential: Nice to have but you can work around them if they stop working 

Includes: 

  • ECG recorder 
  • Patient lifts 
  • Back-up X-ray machines 

It's important to remember that because an asset's role changes based on the ward, their relative importance also changes. So, the lighting in an operating room is critical, but the lighting in the hospital cafeteria is not. When the microscope in the lab stops working, it's a high priority. But when the microscope by the nurses' station stops working, it's not. In the first case, doctors can no longer run critical tests. In the second, the nurses might not even notice for days because they rarely if ever use the microscope by their station anyway. 

Don't always listen to the experts 

When it comes to maintenance, you and your maintenance team eventually know more about your assets and equipment than the people who designed and built them. 

Not at first, though. Early on, you should follow all their advice for maintenance, including timelines for inspections and tasks. If they say the tubing needs to be flushed every three months, that's exactly how often you need to do it. 

But only at first. After a while, you and your team know that specific asset better than anyone else. Think of it this way: in many ways, it's not the same asset it was the day it left the factory. There's the cumulative effect of how the operators use it, including even small things like mashing the buttons a bit or swinging the door closed too quickly every time they use it. 

After a while, you need to fine-tune your preventive maintenance work orders, so they match what the asset — your asset — needs. So, the O&M manual might say to flush the tubing every three months, but based on your direct experience, you need to set a PM for every two months. 

How does a CMMS solution make implementing hospital best practices easier? 

Because you're in charge of managing a team of maintenance techs trying to inspect, maintain, and repair complicated assets all over a maze-like facility, you need a system that helps you pull everything together, streamlining and simplifying your SOPs. 

Modern CMMS solutions start with a centralized database that helps you keep all your maintenance data safe and secure but also accessible from any Internet-connected device. When you're in your office assigning on-demand and preventive maintenance work orders, all the techs on the team can access the same data. 

 What you see, they see, right in real time. 

That means everyone — especially you — is always in the loop. 

Reliable data for audits 

And because everyone is working from the same data, you know you can rely on it. With paper and spreadsheet work orders, everyone ends up with their own disconnected copies, and when you try to pull it all together, entering everything manually guarantees mistakes. 

But with a CMMS, when it comes time for an external audit, you know you have all the facts you need to prove you were in compliance. Remember, there's always two parts to compliance: doing the right work in time and then proving you did the right work in time. Without that second half, you're not officially compliant. 

Past performance reviews for future PMs 

How well do you know your assets? Because you've worked on them more than the people who originally designed and built them, you should know them better. 

But if all your records are stuck on paper or in spreadsheets, it's hard to get a clear picture of the work you did, when you did it, and how long it was before the asset needed more attention. The answers might be right there in your data, but you don't have a quick, reliable way to see them. 

ScheduledWorkORders_Desktop

Modern maintenance management software for health care and hospitals helps you leverage your data into smart decisions. With just a few clicks, you can see an asset's complete maintenance and repairs histories. From there, you can more easily fine-tune the PM program to catch small issues before they have a chance to grow into budget-busting problems. 

Next steps 

Ready to take control of maintenance at your hospital? 

Hippo's here to help you get the solution that works best for you, including answering your questions about facility maintenance software, helping you book a live software demo, or even setting you up with a free trial.  

Quick summary 

Maintenance is critical for hospitals and other health care facilities. Even something as simple as the elevator being out of order can have serious consequences when a vulnerable patient can't make it to the operating room a few floors up. But as the head of the maintenance team, you can implement best practices to ensure reliable assets and equipment. First, set up your maintenance program around any compliance requirements. Second, prioritize assets and equipment according to not only cost and complexity but also potential effects on patients' outcomes. Third, keep looking back at your maintenance and repairs records to help you fine-tune your PM program. Finally, get a CMMS. It makes implementing all these best practices easier by helping you capture and use reliable data. 

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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