By Jim Horton, Paul George, and Michael Raiche

The biomedical department of Mount Nittany Health (MNH), a central Pa.-based healthcare system, has expanded its commitment to providing robust medical equipment management practices. Their goal was to build a biomedical technology stack that delivers a single source of reliable and trustworthy data, and fully automates workflows across the entire asset lifecycle.

The following details how this community health system transitioned from antiquated and siloed systems to its modern asset management platform that supports a medical center and eighteen medical practices.

Mount Nittany Health’s Dilemma

The MNH biomedical department had embraced technology over the years, moving from a paper-based system to a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Their early CMMS applications were simplistic but worked well at connecting testing automation to record keeping. This success was typically due to the solution being provided by a single-source vendor.

However, hardware and software upgrades lead to the introduction of multiple vendors resulting in a disconnect between testing automation and record keeping. Additionally, the MNH biomedical department’s series of CMMS upgrades had resulted in data loss making it difficult for the department to maintain a complete electronic archive of their reports and medical equipment accountability proofs. Faced with these challenges, the MNH biomedical department decided to invest in a new asset management platform.

Searching for an Asset Management Platform

The MNH biomedical department partnered with a multifunctional team consisting of clinicians, facility management, pharmacy, sterile processing, lab services, and the IT department to solve this issue. Their strategic planning sessions yielded a strategy to build a connected system that combined leading technologies from a collection of trusted vendors. Goals for their new biomedical technology stack included:

  • Integrating many job functions into a single, interconnected ecosystem
  • Automating document workflows for repair and preventative maintenance work orders from origination through compliance documentation
  • Sourcing smart and/or enhanced test tools to enable test automation
  • Creating dashboards and notifications to provide  easy visibility to system status
  • Addressing all regulatory needs and creating record redundancy to prevent future data loss
  • Addressing current survey models and having the flexibility to introduce the increase and/or decrease of acceptable PM/PE cycles over time
  • Reinforcing biomedical best practices and having the flexibility to incorporate new accepted best practices over time
  • Storing and making available at the point of use protocols and service manuals
  • Utilizing RFID tracking and a real-time locating system (RTLS) for assets
  • Doing security at the individual medical device level
  • Managing inventory consisting of 7,000 biomedical assets across the entire health system while being able to manage additional department specific assets.

For this ambitious project to succeed, MNH knew the vendors they included in their biomedical technology stack would need certain characteristics. They needed vendors with industry-leading technologies who were capable and willing to build intra-company integrations. Also, a history of product innovation by the vendor was desirable,  demonstrating an ability for the vendor to continue to scale with MNH into the future. Lastly, they knew they needed to rely on vendors who would provide excellent customer support.

Finding a Solution

MNH first created a technology roadmap. Additional and significant technologies like RFID, RTLS, inventory, and individual medical device security were moved to later phases of the roadmap. The team then focused on creating ease-of-use from the point of work order origin, or PM origination, to completion of documentation. The goal was  minimal manual intervention.

Two vendors, TruAsset and Fluke Biomedical, were selected to support this phase of their transformation. TruAsset would supply their advanced CMMS system, and Fluke Biomedical would supply their latest generation test tools and their new OneQA workflow automation software. Fluke Biomedical OneQA is software that automates testing, results capture, reporting, and redundant document storage.

The software also stores and displays procedures, manuals, photos, and departmental notes and makes them available at the point of use. And, most importantly for Mount Nittany Health, OneQA is designed to exchange data with other companies’ CMMS systems.

Applying the Solution

The new automated workflow begins in the TruAsset CMMS. It generates a work order, which is sent to OneQA. Inside OneQA, a technician can see the work order, the procedure tied to the work order, the associated service manual, and any departmental notes or photos that management and colleagues have added.

The technician then connects the Fluke Biomedical test tool to the OneQA software. The connection between the test tool and the tablet or laptop running OneQA is a wired connection. The wired connection gives increased reliability, provides the ability to use OneQA without an internet connection, and, with MNH moving toward individual medical device security, may prove a more secure long-term solution.

The technician then uses OneQA to run the test.  OneQA displays the test procedure as a series of steps, and the software requires the technician to complete the steps in order. A simple pass or fail notation gives the technician the desired dashboard-like status at-a-glance. The software controlling the test through a staged procedure means that, should a test be interrupted, the software will return the technician to the correct next step. Test results automatically collect and transfer from the test analyzer to the OneQA software, speeding up data collection and eliminating transcription or typing errors.

At procedure completion, the OneQA software generates a test report. A copy of the test report is automatically stored in the cloud, and a second report is sent back to the TruAsset CMMS. This gives MNH the document redundancy they required.

The TruAsset CMMS provides overall system management with a wide breadth of features. It supplies cellphone notification of work orders, provides a comprehensive dashboard, collects the voice of the customer, sends automated acknowledgments, gives notifications of work status, prioritizes workflows, and summarizes all efforts by the department. It also includes a ticket (notification) system, AEM program, PM scheduling, automated record updating based on service codes, and a lost work order tracking system.

Using Fluke Biomedical OneQA software to make a connection between device testing and an advanced CMMS system gave MNH ease-of-use from the point of a work order, or PM origination, to completion of documentation—all with the minimal manual intervention they were seeking.

Telling Results

A team of senior managers at Mount Nittany Health Systems and Fluke Biomedical reviewed the results of testing using OneQA. They discovered that the software both saved significant testing time and reduced errors.

 Performance EvalVisual InspectionTotal Test TimeTime Saved
Without OneQA~50 minutes5-10 minutes60-65 minutesN/A
With One QA~30 minutes5-10 minutes35-40 minutes20-25 minutes (-33% to-42%)
Source: Mount Nittany Health Systems and Fluke Biomedical research – provide date and source qualifier

The integration of OneQA and TruAsset also resulted in higher customer satisfaction and increased trust of the system which, in turn, improved employee morale. Technicians became confident in the data and the improved quality of the test results.

Mount Nittany Health: Phase Two

After Mount Nittany Health implemented TruAsset CMMS software and OneQA testing solutions, they moved to the final stage of their biomedical roadmap to implement automated device tracking using RFID and RTLS.

The primary goal for MNH was to know the location of devices and have real-time visibility of them throughout its medical center. The ability to track device movement through the organization would prevent asset loss, improve efficiency, and allow review utilization. With these goals in mind, Mount Nittany completed a full review of RTLS systems and settled on a vendor that could interface with TruAsset.

By implementing the RTLS system, the biomed team could instantly locate devices requiring preventative maintenance and enhance the ability of clinical staff to have the tools they need when they need them. For example, the system gives an exact location of a device when a service request is submitted, or when a PM work order is generated. For this to work, MNH completed an interface from the RTLS vendor to their TruAsset CMMS system.

Now, with all the new technology in place, when a device work order is placed technicians no longer have to waste time locating the device, whereas in the past it could have taken longer to locate a  device than it did to complete the requested preventative maintenance. MNH has tagged more than 2,000 devices from the biomed inventory and is now tagging department specific devices.  They are on track to double the devices by the end of the year while training departments to be self-sufficient when locating medical equipment for immediate use cases.

Additionally, there are added benefits to the clinical areas, including:

  • The ability to review department-specific medical equipment, so the end user can quickly locate the device with minimal effort 
  • A loss prevention component that ensures when a medical device leaves the building for any reason there are safeguards in place to alert staff.
    • Devices can be folded up in the laundry, disposed of as medical waste, thrown in the trash, mistakenly taken home by patients, and intentionally stolen. 
    • MNH now knows exactly when an item leaves the building, and they have protocols to prevent the loss of the equipment. So far this year, they have replaced $50,000 in telemetry transmitters alone.
  • This tool makes the effort of hunting for medical equipment obsolete. In the past, this hunt has consumed a portion of work time for all staff. The biomed department alone could spend at least 80 hours per month looking for devices. That time now can be spent productively, as well as saving the organization another $45,000 per year.
  • Efficient use of equipment will now be the norm due to eliminating the need for equipment replacement if the devices have shown to be minimally used.
  • Staff morale has improved.

A Fully Integrated System

MNH needed trusted vendors with technologies that are ahead of the curve, who are capable of building intra-company integrations, who have a sterling reputation for product innovation, and who have a proven ability to continue to scale with MNH. Finally, it was critical that they work with vendors who would provide excellent support.

Mount Nittany Health now has a fully integrated system including maintenance requests, preventative maintenance, testing equipment, manufacturer protocols, seamless testing capture, and asset location services. 

Jim Horton and Paul George serve as biomedical manager and supply chain director at Mount Nittany Health System, respectively. Michael Raiche is senior product manager at Fluke Biomedical. Questions and comments can be directed to editor@24x7mag.com.