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COVID-19 and your Clinical Engineering Department

covid clinical engineering


The lack of ventilators, the differences between ventilators, and the importance of finding a reliable supply of ventilators. These specific needs were glaring at providers the first few weeks in March, as hospitals prepared for the surge of COVID-19 patients. As leadership turned to their Clinical Engineering departments for answers, many were met with frustration due to lack of total inventory management, poor access to quality data, and deficiency in strategic sourcing. These exposed weaknesses highlight the need for Clinical Engineering departments to change how they are thinking about tracking equipment.

Lack of Total Inventory Management

Often, the entire hospital medical device inventory is not contained within the Clinical Engineering department database. Some clinical departments keep a separate inventory for assets that clinical engineering is not supporting directly, or more concerning, they may be keeping an inventory that tracks some or all, of the assets in the clinical engineering inventory. Disparate inventories will have different data fields, naming strategies, and inclusion criteria. This can cause delays and confusion in preparing an accurate picture of the assets that are on hand and available to treat patients. A single, consolidated inventory across the entire hospital should be the requirement.

Understanding how rental agreements are being used, highlights an additional challenge to inventory management. Many rental agreements are written to address filling urgent, peak use needs. As such, they have few limitations on who can place orders and may lack controlling procedure on the acceptance and return of these devices. The need for inventory control and device inspection must be addressed, both with the vendor and the hospital staff as well. Rental inventory must be managed properly to ensure service checks and quality control measures are in place, and to ensure that the assets are returned and billed terminated, when they are no longer needed.

Gaps in Quality Data & Inconsistent Inventory Identifiers

medical equipmentNot all ventilators are the same. Having good, clean, detailed data can help a clinician make an educated and informed clinical decision, when patients are arriving at an alarming rate and decisions need be made quickly and responsibly. Inconsistent or broad device descriptors make it difficult for clinicians to assess capacity and needs when they looking to match specific device features to meet a specific treatment plan or creating a hierarchy for which devices should be assigned to the most critical patients.

Deficiency in Strategic Planning

For some hospitals, the lack of strategic capital planning has created a situation where there is little consistency in the manufacturers and models being purchased for like devices. This issue is exacerbated when looking at the inventory of a health system. During a crisis, having a limited variability between devices makes it easier to preorder frequently used replacement parts, that in turn, decreases device downtime. It also facilitates how equipment and clinical staff can be flexed with the census, between locations, should the need arise. While the Clinical Engineering department is ultimately responsible for equipment and maintenance programs, there should be methodology for a multidisciplinary decision process to proactively address capital needs, which considers variability in its deliberations.

In addition, as hospitals look to outfit additional beds or even temporary facilities, to handle surging demand, the need to have an accurate total inventory, to be able to associate specific assets with differing levels of care, and to have some consistency in devices to facilitate staff training, are all important.

COVID-19 has highlighted the need relook at how Clinical Engineering departments are functioning and the importance of strategic planning and a strong inventory management program. Solution and supplier neutral, Soriant identifies financial, operational, and quality opportunities within your support service departments and implements the solution most aligned with your goals and objectives. For more information or to speak to our Clinical Engineering subject matter expert, please contact

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