Healthcare News & Insights

Medical device management: The high cost of doing nothing


A typical hospital system has thousands of stationary and mobile medical devices on site and spends millions of dollars on maintenance, purchasing and leasing. Yet, despite the volume of devices, the investment and expense involved, healthcare organizations are overwhelmingly laggard in adopting effective medical device management – likely because they don’t realize the surprisingly high cost of doing nothing. In this guest post, Bill Parkinson, senior director of life sciences and healthcare at a global information technology company, details six ways doing nothing costs hospitals something.


Medical device management involves creating an intelligent system of record for all medical devices in a hospital. This single source of truth contains all device information, such as device location, status, utilization, total costs and security risk. It provides a view into the hospital’s medical device ecosystem that’s real-time, holistic and detailed.

Frequently, healthcare systems have something in place designed to provide medical device management, but not necessarily the right thing. For example, they may have signed a contract with an outsourcing partner to provide medical device management, and that partner may not be providing the outcomes they expected and the information they need to run their business.

Many organizations are still trying to manage their medical devices internally through spreadsheets or software that don’t do what’s needed; a surefire recipe for inefficiency, frustration and error. And then there are the cases where a device management software product was purchased but isn’t doing the job and the organization is unwilling to admit that the investment was a mistake.

Yet, even when existing medical device management tools (or lack thereof) are recognized to be less than optimal, hospitals hesitate to remedy the situation. The most common laments are “We can’t afford to install a new medical device management system!” or “We don’t have the bandwidth to bring in any new solutions.” But the truth of the matter is, you can’t afford not to.

6 ways doing nothing costs hospitals something

Let’s consider the cost of doing nothing to improve your medical device management.

1. Audit agony

Medical device audits tend to generate a mad scramble as staff dig through clinical engineering systems or sort through spreadsheets to find the necessary data. All the staff hours add up, yet those aren’t the only costs that can occur from an audit. What if the reports contain errors? For example, a report might show that a device has been maintained when, in fact, service and maintenance cycles were missed. An audit will reveal the discrepancy – with unpleasant and costly consequences.

2. Tracking troubles

Many medical devices are completely portable. This mobility makes it all too easy to move the device into a room or storage area and forget that it’s there, or to have a patient, caregiver or staff member leave the hospital with the device (intentionally or unintentionally). The problem is if the device cannot be used, it can’t generate a return on the investment that was made in it – effectively costing the hospital money.

3. Contract conundrums

Without medical device data on hand, it’s impossible to know if you’re getting a good return on investment (ROI) for your service contracts. Consequently, you can’t negotiate with service providers from a position of strength. For instance, suppose a device has a service contract for $60,000 per year, but your single source of truth for medical devices show that the device on average only goes down once a year with an easily resolvable issue. If you lack this data, you can’t go back to the service provider and negotiate a lower-cost service contract based on actual device performance.

4. Payment problems

Countless problems occur with medical devices every day, such as a miscalibrated infusion pump or an MRI showing a fault code. In the absence of integrated medical device data, hospital staff may not realize that a device is under a service contract and, instead, repair it with an internal staff. Essentially, paying twice for a given repair is costing you money.

5. Purchasing puzzles

How do you know what medical devices to purchase and when to purchase them? Without detailed device data on hand, you will be answering those questions in the dark, relying on recommendations from the facilities team, clinical staff and vendors. People, however, are subjective and often biased. For example, a physician may recommend purchasing a certain piece of equipment, yet do the healthcare practice a disservice from a cost-effectiveness, security, reliability and/or utilization perspective. Knowing the total cost of ownership and reliability of all your medical devices helps you make better purchasing decisions.

6. Security shortcomings

Finally, there’s the matter of managing the security of your medical devices. The unfortunate truth is, even devices with security protections are often not configured appropriately within the hospital network to be secure. This lack of medical device security is a boon to hackers, who are breaching hospital systems on a regular basis to steal data or introduce ransomware. To add to the cost of poor security, regulators frequently levy fines and penalties if a healthcare system is hacked.

Medical device management: Worth the cost

When you add up the real and potential costs of having less-than-optimal medical device management in place, the numbers can quickly mount up to millions of dollars. It’s time to take a close look at what you’re spending on compliance salaries, audit preparation costs, contract spend, capital planning, etc., and answer the question, “Are we sending good money down the drain simply because we lack data about our medical devices?”

Yes, there’s a cost associated with putting robust medical device management in place. It’ll require an investment. But the cost of doing something is far less than the cost of doing nothing.

Bill Parkinson is senior director of life sciences and healthcare for Blue Bell-based Unisys Corporation.



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