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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Medical Office Supplies and Equipment Maintenance

May 15, 2024

Medical office supplies and equipment play a vital, yet often underestimated, role in the modern healthcare environment. Highly skilled clinical staff members are essential, but they cannot do their jobs properly unless they have access to reliable equipment. Given the sheer scope of these items and devices, however, maintaining and keeping track of them can prove complicated. Administrative professionals can bridge the gap by bringing structure and clarity to inventory management and equipment maintenance processes.

In this guide, we provide a deep dive into the myriad of tasks and procedures that underscore healthcare office supply management and the medical maintenance of critical equipment. Keep reading to learn why this is so important and which steps should be taken to ensure healthcare facilities remain organized, safe and compliant.

What Is the Importance of Managing Medical Office Supplies?

Medical office supplies support a variety of functions within both clinical and administrative environments. They must be carefully managed to ensure they are always at-hand when required by staff members and patients. Proper management can make healthcare facilities easier to navigate, therefore improving general efficiency and reducing a variety of operational expenses. Beyond this, there are many safety considerations that come into play, as we’ll touch on in more detail below.

Providing Reliable Medical Equipment

Clinical professionals need to feel confident that any equipment or supplies they will need are readily available and in excellent condition. These busy healthcare workers do not have time to track down out-of-place items or perform extensive inspections themselves. They must instead rely on medical administrative assistants to handle these concerns so that clinical employees can focus on interacting with their patients. Strategic management solutions ensure that all devices are properly inspected and maintained, thereby improving both reliability and peace of mind.

How Does This Impact Patient Care?

Properly managed medical supplies and equipment can boost outcomes across the full spectrum of healthcare while minimizing stress among clinical workers and even reducing operational expenses. By facilitating more efficient and attentive care, this ultimately boosts patient satisfaction and employee morale. Such improvements are made possible, in part, by these key factors:

Efficiency in Operations

Medical facilities should be easy for clinical professionals to navigate. Orderly surroundings limit staff’s mental burden while allowing them to carry out everyday operations in a seamless and efficient manner. The easier they find it to access and use necessary equipment or supplies, the more promptly they can serve patients and reduce delays during medical visits, and helps keep the entire facility running according to schedule.

Patient Safety and Well-Being

Physicians and nurses often receive the bulk of the blame for medical errors, but often, the entire healthcare team is involved to some extent, including administrative professionals. When medical equipment is properly organized and maintained, there is a reduced risk of latent errors, defined in a key resource on Medical Error Reduction and Prevention as “errors in system or process design, faulty installation or maintenance of equipment, or ineffective organizational structure.”[1]

Clinicians owe patients a high standard of care, but errors are more likely if healthcare workers struggle to locate or use necessary equipment or supplies. They also cannot provide the level of care patients deserve if critical equipment proves unreliable.

Decreasing Liability Risk

Whether they are improperly organized or maintained, medical supplies and equipment can carry a huge risk of liability if they are handled in a haphazard manner. In-depth organization and maintenance policies can combat this, especially if maintenance activities are properly documented. Administrative concerns can play into medical malpractice cases, so it behooves facilities to minimize these risks and maintain strong documentation in case of legal complications.

What Should Inventory Management Look Like?

There is no denying the importance of effective inventory management in the modern healthcare landscape. Unfortunately, putting this into practice is often easier said than done, especially given the busy, even chaotic nature of the modern healthcare environment. With strategic organization and maintenance processes, many common challenges can be overcome. Ideally, inventory management will encompass these essentials:

Determine PAR Levels and Reorder Points

Periodic Asset Replenishment (PAR) determines necessary inventory levels for hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities and incorporates both minimum and maximum limits to guide the quantities for specific types of items. Without guidance from PAR levels, providers risk a haphazard approach to medical inventory. As a result, one of two problematic scenarios is likely: critical supplies are lacking when they are needed most, or excess inventory levels lead to wasteful spending or even the expiration of certain supplies.

Manually tracking is time-consuming and unreliable, so facilities may implement computerized inventory solutions known as automatic replenishment. This incorporates reorder points, which reveal when it’s necessary to order more supplies. These solutions can be effective for avoiding costly overstocking while reducing the risk of out-of-stock situations.

Equipment Maintenance

Equipment maintenance plays a central role in healthcare inventory management. Equipment may not call for PAR tracking or reorder points, but the process is just as involved; equipment must be regularly inspected to ensure that it is reliable. If small issues are detected, they must be addressed before bigger problems emerge. Digitized asset tracking solutions are increasingly integral to equipment maintenance They can produce impressive reductions in downtime,  thereby improving workflows while streamlining many other aspects of facility management.

Preventative Maintenance

Just as preventative clinical care promotes better long-term outcomes for patients, preventative maintenance ensures that medical devices are reliable for as long as possible. This can dramatically reduce replacement costs and while providing much-needed peace of mind for clinical staff members and patients alike. Preventative maintenance encompasses regular inspections, cleaning and servicing, all of which impact the long-term functionality of medical equipment.

Following CMS Rules

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sets the standard for how healthcare equipment should be maintained. CMS guidance explains, “Hospital facilities, supplies and equipment must be maintained to ensure an acceptable level of safety and quality,” adding that it is possible for hospitals to adjust “maintenance, inspection, and testing frequency” as needed.[2]

Looking Through AEM Programs

Alternative equipment maintenance (AEM) brings a data-driven approach to office management, particularly when facilities anticipate they will diverge from the recommendations set in place by equipment manufacturers. Under this approach, there is no need to rely on the typical rigidity of traditional maintenance schedules and processes. Rather than using a set schedule, AEM relies on data such as performance history, equipment usage time and previous maintenance logs.

Upon implementing AEM systems, healthcare facilities may observe significant decreases in maintenance expenses, primarily because they are able to shift their focus and resources to the specific devices or equipment requiring the most attention at any given time. Additionally, this system builds in a more proactive approach, in which preventative care is emphasized.

CMS has provided authorization for AEM. However, organizations using this approach must justify their deviations from manufacturer recommendations, which can be challenging and calls for evidence-based maintenance (EBM), plus qualified professionals (such as clinical engineers) to make the initial determination to place devices on AEM status.

How Do I Manage the Budget?

Every facility operates with strict budgets for medical inventory and assets. Remaining within that budget can be a challenge, particularly considering supply chain concerns that have produced dramatic price increases for several types of medical equipment and supplies. With diligence, however, it is possible to track expenditures and even project inventory spending.

Review Historical Budgets

Previous budgets can provide valuable insight into future spending. These should be reviewed regularly to reveal trends in inventory and asset spending, as well as areas of waste or redundancy that can be improved. Many facilities increasingly rely on software solutions drawing on historical data to empower advanced algorithms that provide data-driven forecasting.

Know Your Maintenance Strategy

Maintenance strategies can play a significant role in determining the long-term cost of keeping medical equipment in excellent shape (or eventually, replacing it). We’ve touched on the value of AEM programs, but these may not be ideal for all organizations, given the extra documentation that this approach requires.

No matter which maintenance strategy is ultimately implemented, it should be well-understood and strictly followed. Also important? A willingness to examine strategies occasionally to reveal opportunities for improvement or the need to adapt as new solutions become available.

Factor in Hidden Costs

Not all inventory expenses will be easy to determine or understand. Hidden costs abound within the modern healthcare supply chain, related not only to the inventory and equipment itself but also to the activities required by the staff members who use or manage it. Stock expiration is a chief example of this; a report from Medtronic reveals that, when proper inventory controls are lacking, wastage can constitute up to 13 percent of annual material spend.[3]

Stolen and lost medical equipment can also lead to considerable, but often hidden, expenses. If the potential for these costs is acknowledged and planned for, facilities can dramatically reduce such expenses. Transparency always represents the first step.

Ensuring Compliance With Healthcare Regulations

A core function of inventory management is to boost regulatory compliance. This is a huge challenge, given the sheer variety of agencies that maintain guidelines related to inventory and equipment.

As 24×7 explains, a Medical Equipment Management Plan (MEMP) is essential for revealing how healthcare devices are managed and maintained and what happens when equipment requires servicing or repairs. Incident response procedures are essential, as are equipment recall procedures.[4]

Inspectional Checklist

Every facility must maintain a detailed inspectional checklist, encompassing the full scope of equipment contained within that location and required events as they relate to servicing, repairs and quality control. This checklist may include:

  • Blood pressure monitors
  • Defibrillators
  • Suction pumps
  • X-ray equipment
  • Ultrasound machines

(ESI) Electrical Safety Inspections

All appliances and devices used to deliver patient care must be regularly inspected to ensure that they provide a high level of service and will remain as safe as possible, far into the future. Poorly maintained equipment can lead to a variety of electrical hazards, such as:

  • Electrical fault, which may prompt fire hazards
  • Temperature irregularities that lead to poor sterilization
  • Incorrect diagnostic output

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) provides strict guidelines for electrical safety inspections. Known as NFPA 99 (Standards for Health Care Facilities), these detail procedures such as safety grounding and lead leakage tests. NFPA 99 also provides important guidance for performance inspections and calibration.[5]

Strong Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Every facility should maintain a checklist detailing requirements for preventative maintenance procedures. Specifics will vary between locations and even from one device to the next, but the following tasks are especially important:

  • Inspect the device’s exterior and cables.
  • Verify the operational functionality of the equipment.
  • Test mechanical parts, checking for abnormal noises or vibrations.
  • Calibrate measurements to ensure accurate readings.
  • Replace any faulty components observed.
  • Test the device again after faulty components have been replaced.
  • Consult documentation from the manufacturer as necessary.

Prepare for Success in Medical Office Administration

You can learn more about medical office management and more with the Medical Office Administration Certificate program at SJVC.

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[1] Rodziewicz, T. et al. “Medical Error Reduction and Prevention.”

[2] “Hospital Equipment Maintenance Requirements.” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

[3] “The hidden, yet avoidable, costs in the hospital medical device supply chain.” Medtronic.

[4] Baretich, M. “How to Write a Medical Equipment Management Plan.” 24×7.

[5] “Health Care Facilities Code.” National Fire Protection Association.