7 Equipment Planning Steps to Follow During a Healthcare Merger
A healthcare merger provides the perfect opportunity to take inventory of a hospital system’s medical equipment. With the proper equipment management strategy, you can successfully organize capital equipment from multiple facilities to optimize efficiency and productivity. Below are seven things to remember to do during a healthcare system merger.
1) Discard any permanently broken equipment right away
“Staff cannot use mechanical equipment if it is broken or not charged. Further, equipment that has not been maintained properly could result in injuries to both caregivers and patients.”
– United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Maintaining a safe working environment is paramount during a healthcare merger. One of the best steps you can take to foster a safe environment for staff and patients is to discard any medical equipment that is broken beyond repair. Keeping broken equipment in storage is a risky idea because new staff may inadvertently attempt to use the damaged equipment to care for patients. A growing number of hospitals are utilizing recycling companies that specialize in retrieval and handling of obsolete or broken equipment.
2) Compare equipment servicing rates for each facility involved
A healthcare merger can quickly cause the number of equipment service contracts for a hospital system to double or triple. In addition to being expensive, a host of equipment servicing contracts can be challenging to track and manage.
You can address this issue by comparing the service quality and rates charged by each servicing company. You can then condense your list of service companies into one manageable list of service providers that offers the best combination of quality and affordability. Be sure to remember that not all service contracts are created equal and that coverages may vary:
“Coverages may include onsite repairs, depot repairs, planned maintenance, replacement parts, loaner units, and consumables. Administrators need to understand that there are different service options available, ranging from time and materials coverage to full service, preventative maintenance only, or depot service only service contracts.”
– Emily Kulenkamp, Business Development Coordinator at Remi
3) Introduce capital equipment planning software
Equipment planning software is a welcome addition to in-house hospital teams who are attempting to manage a large inventory of capital medical equipment. Capital planning software is designed to help hospitals save money and reduce the amount of time spent on equipment procurement. In fact, you can reduce the amount of time spent by as much as 76% by introducing industry-leading capital equipment planning software. Here are some of the many ways that equipment planning software can help you standardize procurement and maximize efficiency:
- It provides a centralized location for the purchasing records of all hospitals involved in the merger
- You can prepare purchasing reports quickly and effortlessly
- Your in-house purchasing team can easily view equipment purchases
- You can more easily predict future equipment needs
4) Meet with in-house biomedical technicians from each facility
“The biomedical engineer knows which equipment actually breaks, which causes the most user errors, and on which he or she performs preventive maintenance that has never needed calibration or repair. Facilities professionals should start by asking where time seems to be wasted or what equipment fails the most and focus the initial improvements in those categories.”
– Valerie Laktash, Director of Facility Services at Placentia-Linda Hospital, HFM
In-house biomedical engineers and technicians are invaluable resources during a healthcare merger. As a result of their regular exposure to hospital equipment, they have firsthand knowledge of equipment models and manufacturers that are the most dependable as well as those that are the most problematic. By meeting with lead maintenance personnel, you can gain valuable insight into the equipment that is costing more to maintain than it is worth.
5) Meet with clinical personnel from each hospital
Input from clinical personnel is just as important as feedback from biomedical engineers. Doctors, nurses and other clinical staff can provide valuable insight into the functionality and capabilities of the medical equipment being procured. Make sure to schedule a meeting to request their feedback on the brands and products that are necessary for quality patient care. For instance, they can offer input regarding the following:
- Medical equipment that is absolutely essential for daily operation (patient monitors, for instance)
- Equipment that has been instrumental in helping doctors make high-stakes clinical decisions
- Products that are not being used because they do not produce reliable results
6) Identify the top three equipment vendors from each facility
Most hospital procurement departments have a short list of equipment vendors with whom they love working. These vendors tend to be those who are organized, responsive, and proactive in their relationship with the hospital. As you move forward with the healthcare merger, it is important to keep these vendors in the loop as each phase of the merger unfolds. Additionally, you can position your hospital system to receive price breaks and a host of other benefits that larger hospital systems receive.
7) Request a volume discount from those key suppliers
“Several systems…noted their ability to substantially reduce the number of distinct types of implants they purchase for joint replacement procedures. Such reductions produce savings by allowing greater volume discounts through negotiation with medical device manufacturers, more efficient inventory management, and lower expenditures on the staff training necessary to accommodate multiple devices.”
– Monica Noether, Ph.D. and Sean May, Ph.D.
Once you have identified your top medical equipment vendors, it is time to schedule a meeting to negotiate your pricing structure. Most vendors will be willing to offer discounted rates when they hear the news of your merger. After all, the potential for larger and more frequent purchases is imminent. Be sure to be prepared with a carefully calculated estimate of the potential increase in purchases before you arrive at your meeting.
The Bottom Line During a Healthcare Merger
An organized approach to managing medical equipment is critical to maintaining smooth operations during a hospital merger. Removing broken equipment, coordinating with hospital personnel, and negotiating with key suppliers are all effective ways to promote safety and reduce costs following a merger. Most importantly, by following the seven steps above, you can help ensure that the quality of patient care is optimized as a hospital merger unfolds.