The demand for skilled healthcare professionals is increasing. However, the number of biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs)—the professionals who manage, repair and maintain the medical equipment—is shrinking.
According to a 2020 survey, 40% of the BMET workforce is age 55 and older, with nearly 1 in 4 BMETs over the age of 60 and approaching retirement. What’s more, dozens of BMET education/certification programs have shuttered in recent years, leaving nearly 20 states with no accredited BMET programs to funnel new graduates into the workforce.
The shortage of these essential healthcare workers is having a significant impact on the industry, leaving its mark on everything from patient care to operational costs. Given the propulsive state of innovation in biomedical technology, the healthcare industry will need a sizable workforce of knowledgeable technicians to keep pace. A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can help hospitals and other medical facilities bridge the asset management gap while the industry waits for the workforce to catch up.
Understanding the role of biomedical technicians
Without biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs), sophisticated medical devices like MRI machines, defibrillators, patient monitors and ventilators, among others, would fall into disrepair, potentially jeopardizing patient outcomes. If diagnostic machines and treatment equipment are out of order due to a lack of maintenance or repair, patients may face significant delays in receiving crucial services. This could mean a diagnostic result takes longer to process or a critical surgery is postponed, both of which can have negative consequences for patients.
Furthermore, when equipment is not properly maintained, it’s more likely to break down or require replacement, which can be costly for medical facilities already running on tight budgets. And without sufficient BMETs, hospitals may need to rely on outside service contracts for maintenance and repair, which can be prohibitively expensive. CMMSs can help organizations mitigate the impact of shortages by streamlining and automating key maintenance processes.
What is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and how can it help?
A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a type of facility management software that maintains a comprehensive database of information about an organization’s maintenance operations, helping maintenance workers do their jobs more efficiently and enabling managers to make smarter decisions.
A high-quality CMMS will help healthcare organizations plan, create, track and organize service requests, work orders and routine maintenance automatically, eliminating excessive task planning duties for limited BMET staff. CMMS platforms with accompanying software for mobile devices push access a step further, allowing users to track work orders and access maintenance activities remotely.
CMMS systems can help medical facilities do the following:
1. Improve operational efficiency
A CMMS is designed to automate many of the manual tasks (e.g., work order management, preventive maintenance scheduling, inventory management, workflow tracking, etc.) that can monopolize technicians’ time. Automating these often-tedious processes helps healthcare maintenance teams keep medical equipment in top shape so that medical staff has the equipment it needs when it needs it.
CMMS solutions also help maintenance teams prioritize tasks based on importance and time sensitivity, ensuring that the most critical tasks are completed first. When maintenance can effectively prioritize tasks, healthcare facilities can avoid equipment failures and downtime that negatively impact patient care.
2. Provide opportunities for employee training and knowledge sharing
As BMET availability shrinks, hospitals will need to find ways to work smarter (not harder). Modern CMMSs can include features that support training and knowledge sharing among technicians so that every member of the team is optimizing their talents. For instance, healthcare CMMS software can store manuals, how-to guides and troubleshooting documentation, helping less experienced technicians learn the basics faster and experienced technicians take on more complex tasks.
3. Monitor equipment and run diagnostics remotely
Many advanced CMMS systems offer remote monitoring capabilities, allowing technicians to collect real-time data, monitor equipment performance and diagnose issues without being physically present. This feature is particularly valuable when there’s a shortage of on-site technicians. Remote monitoring enables technicians to address problems promptly and from anywhere with mobile access to CMMS platforms, reducing the need for multiple site visits and optimizing their time and resources.
4. Optimize workforce scheduling
Computerized maintenance management software can facilitate optimized workforce scheduling, integrating factors like technician availability, skillsets and workload. By efficiently assigning tasks and routes, CMMS helps ensure that technicians are utilized effectively and that critical equipment maintenance and repairs are completed in a timely manner.
5. Coordinate suppliers and vendors
CMMS software streamlines communication with suppliers and vendors, helping BMETs track maintenance contracts, warranty information and service agreements. Supplier coordination features also ensure that facilities have the support they need and can leverage external expertise efficiently.
6. Implement asset lifecycle management
CMMS provides a comprehensive view of the entire lifecycle of medical assets, including equipment procurement, installation, maintenance and retirement. By tracking asset history, maintenance activities and performance data, CMMS enables smart decision-making about critical assets. Leveraging a strategic approach to asset maintenance can help facilities optimize how they use equipment and reduce excessive technician workload.
7. Analyze and report data
A CMMS platform can gather and analyze data on equipment performance, maintenance costs and technician productivity. An advanced CMMS takes it a step further by aggregating and displaying medical asset data according to a department’s specific needs.
Teams can build and view customizable reports, visualize trend data and monitor asset functionality to make troubleshooting and inventory management simpler. This information helps managers identify inefficiencies, improve processes and make staffing decisions with shortages in mind.
8. Maximize equipment uptime
In healthcare, functioning high-tech equipment can make a real difference in patient health outcomes, so maximizing asset uptime is crucial, especially when working with smaller technician cohorts. CMMS software allows BMET teams to implement predictive maintenance programs and track preventive maintenance tasks, shifting facilities from reactive to proactive maintenance strategies and minimizing asset breakdowns.
9. Maintain regulatory compliance
Healthcare assets have to comply with a range of stringent regulatory standards. A CMMS can help keep facilities compliant by offering comprehensive asset tracking and maintaining thorough records of inspections, maintenance tasks and repairs. These features—along with mobile apps that can send technicians real-time asset status notifications—help medical organizations easily provide documentation during audits so they can continue to serve patients in need.
Use IBM Maximo Application Suite to streamline your facility
The healthcare industry is increasingly reliant on progressive technologies to provide high-quality patient care, and biomedical equipment technicians (BMET) are integral to ensuring that this technology is operational and well-maintained. The shortage we’re witnessing—and will likely continue to witness—presents a serious challenge that requires a strategic, multi-pronged response.
While a CMMS can’t solve all the problems a BMET shortage creates, it can significantly reduce their impact. Advanced software solutions like IBM Maximo Application Suite can help your facility effectively leverage existing technician staff, extend the lifespan of equipment and ensure the highest possible levels of equipment reliability and patient safety.
IBM Maximo is a high-tech, user-friendly software solution that helps healthcare organizations improve asset performance and streamline day-to-day operations. Using an integrated AI-powered, cloud-based platform, Maximo offers CMMS, EAM and APM capabilities that produce advanced analytics and help medical facilities make smarter, more data-driven decisions.
The future of healthcare hinges on the industry’s ability to keep pace with technological advances. As such, the role of the biomedical technician will continue to be vitally important. The hospitals and medical facilities that take decisive action to address potential staffing challenges and ensure the sustainability of their operations will be best positioned to stay afloat and sustain our healthcare systems for generations to come.
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