Malcolm Ridgway

Malcolm Ridgway

The healthcare technology management field “may be late” to the reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) party, but it’s aiming to adopt such practices, maintains Malcolm Ridgway, PhD, CCE, FAIMBE, acting director of the Healthcare Technology Management Community Maintenance Practices Task Force. In his address to AAMI 2016 attendees, “A RCM-based Solution to the Debate about PM,” Ridgway encouraged biomeds to take cues from the 1950s aviation sector and embrace an RCM approach to equipment maintenance. After all, he said, RCM has reduced aircraft maintenance costs by 50% while improving aircraft reliability by a whopping 200%. And in an industry where people’s lives depend on reliable airplanes, such improvements have big implications for safety.

Last October, Ridgway and other AAMI leaders launched the RCM Project, which aimed to “disseminate clear, relevant information” about the maintenance strategy and create a community-wide database. The development of the latter is particularly useful to biomeds, Ridgway said—and a tool he hopes The Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will deem “a nationally recognized [platform] where you can get information that you can apply to your [equipment maintenance schedules.]”

One of the key manifestations of AAMI’s RCM Project is a nine-step questionnaire, which assesses failure risk by device type. Studies have shown that less than 3-4% of all device failures are maintenance-related, Ridgway said, and timely preventive maintenance (PM) often doesn’t thwart failure modes. PM, he said, only does two things well: It restores parts that won’t last throughout the product lifecycle and examines the overall safety of the device. “You’re looking for hidden failures that aren’t obvious to the patient, like if a sensor is not working properly,” Ridgway said. “What really saves the day with RCM is that the failure doesn’t occur.”

By utilizing a risk-based approach to device management, biomed departments can determine which devices are good candidates for light maintenance and which equipment necessitates a more rigorous maintenance schedule. Ridgway said the AAMI task force’s preliminary findings suggest that an overwhelming majority of equipment—between 700 and 1,400 of the estimated 750 to 1,500 device types—will qualify for reduced PM. The goal, Ridgway told AAMI attendees, is to take the guesswork out of device management and to use tangible data to determine maintenance schedules.

“You can’t beat real data for giving answers to PM schedules,” he said. Here’s hoping the Joint Commission and CMS agree, Ridgway mused.