By Todd Brown, Vice President & General Manager, Service for U.S. & Canada
Amid COVID-19 and all its stressors, many operations leaders are asking whether they can afford to make healthcare technology management (HTM) investments right now. But the better question is—can you afford not to?
Coming out of 2020, healthcare organizations are in a tough spot: Money is tight, expenses are growing, and new pressure continues to mount in the wake of COVID-19. Especially now, many facilities share a similar mantra: If we can just get through today, then we can finally focus on tomorrow. We’ll buy only what we need, pivot away from big vendors, and operate as minimally and nimbly as possible until brighter days arrive. But the problem is—tomorrow cannot wait. The investments you do or do not make now will directly impact success in the future, particularly when it comes to HTM, and particularly right now.
For example, a small survey showed that some hospitals saw surges in demand for portable X-ray images in 2020 during COVID-19, with the number of portable x-ray images taken being up by 40 percent from the corresponding time period during 2019.1 These spikes in demand coincide with the well documented increase in staff burnout, with more than 3 in 4 healthcare workers reporting exhaustion and burnout in a different and larger 2020 survey.2
In this time of high equipment demand paired with highly stressed staff, the average 40 percent rate of asset utilization is simply not sustainable (or scalable, for that matter). And maintaining and servicing hospital equipment becomes a costly and chaotic exercise unless the proper service plans are in place.
Over the last 15 years, the number of machines and devices per hospital bed in the United States has jumped by 62 percent while the utilization of those assets remains at 40 percent.3 The rest of the time, the equipment is in hallways, lost, or idle. So imagine: What could your hospital do with more transparency and access to critical equipment?
Now more than ever, hospitals need strategic investments to standardize and optimize health technology equipment that account for tomorrow’s realities. Changing how you approach asset management can not only boost utilization and uptime of equipment usage, but it can also increase transparency and visibility to help with better operational and financial outcomes.
There are also clinical impacts at stake. A comprehensive asset strategy can help improve outcomes by making the most of staff time. For example, using GE Healthcare's EncompassTM platform with real-time location systems (RTLS), nurses can spend more time with patients and less time chasing down lost equipment. And, as staff continues to approach burnout amid the stressors of COVID-19, every minute saved adds up.
Hospital Equipment Tracking is a Click Away
As hospitals continue to feel cost pressures, health systems are turning to modern-day wireless RTLS applications to help them get their assets, expenses, and labor costs under control. Learn more about this technology with this comprehensive guide-Taking Medical Asset Tracking to the Next Level with RTLS
Lately, leaders at many health organizations have realized the urgency of their health technology needs—deciding that even with the current challenges, now is the time to make investments for the long-term.
Investments in Action in the Hawaiian Islands
We caught up with a few of these people to ask why they went ahead, even when it seemed like it was riskiest to do so. Here is what they said:
“It’s just not sustainable to keep kicking the can down the road and say you’ll get to the big decisions in a year or two. For us, the time to act was now. And we’ve never looked back.”
—Jason Chang, President of The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii experienced many of the same challenges felt by others in the industry. But when push came to shove, they knew they could not keep operating without a standardized HTM plan.
“Anyone who works in healthcare and hospital operations is aware things get increasingly hard as time goes on, and COVID-19 only made circumstances more difficult,” continued Mr. Chang. “But, our priority is still to stay open and take care of everyone who comes through our doors, which is why we created a mission sustainment plan that includes investments in HTM.”
By January 2021, Queen’s had reached 97 percent capacity with 53 COVID-19 patients and the organization was still recovering from a $100 million loss in 2020. Even so, leaders knew that the sustainability of their mission mattered most. When it would seem decisionmakers might be most tempted to pause spending, the facility forged ahead with their investments.
“Even with the financial impacts we saw last year, our board told us clearly: Don’t abandon the plan,” Chang said. “They urged us to continue to invest in what matters, because COVID-19 won’t stay forever. The economy will recover eventually. But we can’t just sit on our laurels and hope that things get better.”
As part of Queen’s mission sustainment plan, Chang and his colleagues activated 200 different changes, some of them small and others more significant. One of those investments included converting their HTM landscape to GE Healthcare’s biomedical
service program. All told, the mission sustainment plan amounted to some $50 million in savings.
“And I think that’s just a drop in the bucket of what the real opportunity is over time,” Chang added. “We’re now able to keep our equipment better maintained and can take a more proactive approach as opposed to a break-fix model. If we didn’t make those
investments now, I’m not sure we’d be able to achieve everything that we’re now able to.”
Chang understands the hesitation many health system executives may feel about making investments during a pandemic. It’s a tough call, especially when you’re confronting financial pressures. But for Queen’s, the question wasn’t: Can we afford this? It was just the opposite: Can we afford not to?
“It’s just not sustainable to keep kicking the can down the road and say you’ll get to the big decisions in a year or two,” Chang said. “For us, the time to act was now. And we’ve never looked back.”
Four Changes Worth Making Amid COVID-19
As they emerge from a public health crisis with significant financial impacts, healthcare systems and hospitals will have more incentive than ever to find ways to increase their operating efficiency, pushing costs down without sacrificing the quality of care. Learn the actions every hospital should take with this four-step guide, Four Important Ways Healthcare Systems Should Change After COVID-19.
Making the The Right Choice: Mercy
Some 4,000 miles away from The Queen’s Medical Center, management at Mercy had similar motivations to that of Queen’s. Even with the pressures of COVID-19, the team knew they had to make investments today for the sake of tomorrow.
“We were really looking for optimization and looking to standardize our operations across our different facilities and to ensure that our level of services is the same and consistent regardless of where you’re at,” said Ms. Jenkins, who oversees all medical equipment at Mercy.
Jenkins and her colleagues had their pick of both large and small partners for the job. Nonetheless, with the pandemic, they didn’t want to risk going with a small vendor who perhaps lacked the expansive network of a legacy partner. They wanted the first choice to be the right choice.
“We opted for GE Healthcare for several different reasons, but one of them is that they really aligned with our mission and ministry and also our overall goals and objectives,” she said. “And during the entire process, the transparency, level of communication, and the dedication that GE showed us to make this program work was outstanding.”
“Is a Big Company Right for Us?”
We get it. Smaller, newer brands can seem nimbler at the get-go. But you want your HTM provider to be someone you can trust who can not only meet your organization’s needs now, but who also can help you scale for the future and has made the investments to back it up. GE Healthcare’s size enables us to co-create streamlined solutions and services for our customers’ desired outcomes without having to source from cumbersome third-party vendors. And working with an all-in-one legacy partner has its advantages.
When you engage with us, you’ll get the benefits of our network and also the purchasing power of our scaled investments, including:
- 500+ staffed sites
- 1,305 technicians
- 2.2 million active Install Base
- 267,000 active GE Healthcare Install Base
- 10 million+ device histories
- 42,000 makes and models
- 90+ percent of all medical assets directly serviced by GE Healthcare
In particular, Mercy has seen improvements to its capital equipment replacement planning. Now working with a legacy partner like GE Healthcare, Jenkins emphasized the benefits of collaborating with a well-networked vendor.
“I think capital equipment replacement is something every healthcare organization struggles with,” she said, “And one of the biggest things [for us] was learning to rely on the team without trying to complete everything on our own. There are resources out there that we didn’t know."
“My biggest takeaway is that I don’t have to do it all myself,” she added. “I’m not in this alone. We’re all in it together, and GE has certainly been there side-by-side, helping us along the way.”
Change is Worth It, Right Now
Even before COVID-19, many healthcare systems were struggling with increased costs and pressures on revenue while labor shortages threatened the very livelihood of in-house biomedical teams. But now, as leaders sort through the aftershocks of the pandemic, including vaccine distribution (and in the United States, a new administration), they’re even more pressed for money, time, and precious resources.
But as facilities like Mercy and Queen’s have recognized, health systems cannot let today’s austerities hold back tomorrow’s possibilities. If now is not the time to invest, when is? There will always be stressors and pressures in the way: But with a standardized and optimized process, you can be better equipped to manage them with minimal impact in the short- and long-term.
Still on the fence about making a change? Get in touch with us. Tell us your most significant pain point related to health technology management, and how you would like to evolve moving forward. We can put together a custom solution unique to your needs—today, tomorrow, and together.
About GE Healthcare
Do you think we're just an OEM who does service on the side? Think again. GE Healthcare is the largest provider of biomedical services in the United States, servicing more than 2 million devices nationwide. With more than 25 years of experience innovating in the biomedical service space, we have more than 700 comprehensive partnerships in place that span more than 4,500 individual hospitals nationally. Driven by a process-first, innovation-always philosophy, we leverage our expertise and scale to work with your teams, identify proven solutions, and craft more efficient strategies that will improve your HTM picture.
1. Insight on the Impact of COVID-19 on Medical Imaging. Imaging Technology News.
Published June 9, 2020. Accessed January 21, 2021.
2. Healthcare Workers Experiencing Burnout, Stress Due to COVID-19 Pandemic.
Healthcare Finance News. Published 2021. Accessed January 21, 2021.
*Existing GE Healthcare data
© 2021 General Electric Company—All rights reserved.