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Modern Medicine: Asset Management and the Future of Telehealth Technology

Asset Management and the Future of Telehealth Technology

In the wake of next-generation telehealth technology, health care providers are faced with new challenges only a strong asset management program can prepare them for.

On the production line, out in the oil fields, in the remote tracts of land where transmission towers hold their high-voltage cables, smarter asset management ultimately serves a financial purpose.

More uptime in production means higher volume capacity and, potentially, higher revenue. Greater reliability in upstream extraction equipment lowers operational costs for an industry strapped for cash in a downturned market, and nothing supports customer retention for energy suppliers quite like fewer blackouts caused by operational failures.

Health care assets, however, are beasts of a different breed; costs are not the only stakes. In the wake of next-generation telehealth technology, health care providers are faced with new challenges only a strong asset management program can prepare them for.

Current economics point to future cost increases in health care

Before we go any further on what reliability-based maintenance and other asset management solutions can do for an industry where lives hang in the balance, let's first touch on the economics involved to set the scene.

A Deloitte study projects health care spending in the United States could reach 17.9 percent of the gross domestic product in 2018. How much will that be exactly? For reference, health care spending in 2013 was 17.7 percent of the GDP or $2.8 trillion. Granted, hospital and clinic expenditures only represent a portion of this total, but it's a sizeable portion indeed – in 2014, these institutions spent $971.8 billion and $603.7 billion, respectively, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Both figures are steep increases over the previous year.

Now, let's examine where spending occurs at these facilities, postulate the catalyst for cost increases and determine how EAM solutions and proactive maintenance plans could provide value to the modernizing health care sector, both financially and with regard to patient well-being.

"40% of health care provider IT budgets grew over the last year."

Mobile device management: A boon to business or a double-edged sword?

According to a 2016 report from IDC Research, 40 percent of health care provider IT budgets grew over the last year. Only a fraction (1 in 4) can be attributed to the implementation of electronic health record keeping systems. Rather, much of the spending has gone toward cloud-based technology for the management of mobile assets.

Telehealth technology presents one low-cost solution for rising health care spending. Mobile devices can be manufactured on the cheap and provide an incredible wealth of remote data to hospitals and clinics hoping to assuage administrative costs for on-site visits. However, as checkups transition off site, relayed to health care providers via the Internet of Things, hospitals and clinics will grow to rely heavily on the performance and accuracy of this innovative, interoperable technology for a number of reasons.

Mobile devices can cause false alarms

Mobile devices can help get patients emergency care, but they can also cause false alarms if not maintained.

First, and perhaps most obvious, malfunctioning sensors and telemetry systems pose a serious health liability to owners and patients alike. Health care recipients trust these devices will give doctors a better sense of ailments and recoveries to avoid complications. Moreover, telehealth providers must secure all the sensitive data collected and distributed throughout in-house assets and approved third parties. A single breach puts patients in harm's way and places providers in violation of established government regulations. In addition, at a time when medical device inventories are set to increase drastically, management of these assets will grow more complex.

Also, consider this hypothetical situation: A hospital decides to allow ambulance dispatch resources to integrate with systems managing devices attached to medium-risk patients off site. A signal arrives at dispatch saying a patient five miles away is experiencing cardiac arrest. Once the ambulance reaches the patient's home, it is revealed he isn't having a heart attack – he's simply hooked up to a defective asset. The hospital must now eat those costs.

So, while remote assets used in telehealth help providers avoid superfluous costs, it also has the potential to raise new ways to waste money, not to mention place other patients in jeopardy. After all, an ambulance dispatched on a fluke is one less to send to a real emergency.

Enterprise asset management solutions for health care follow the same principles as telehealth initiatives do: to leverage real-time data in a way that supports patient health above all else. When providers can obtain and utilize actionable performance data on all assets, they also optimize spend management on maintenance and avoid accidental expenditures, whether it be for mobile assets or more traditional equipment like intravenous drip machines and electrocardiogram equipment. Furthermore, understanding asset availability and utilization with greater detail allows more patients access to high-tech, high-demand equipment, such as magnetic resonance imaging technology, all the while preserving its integrity through proactive maintenance.

Compliance and EAM: Spend less money, save more lives

Medical device compliance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and off the pages of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act push to make modern medicine as safe as can be. However, though that may be true, many health care providers would characterize the administrative workload required to prove compliance as borderline onerous, especially considering the importance of the work they do otherwise. Yet, these same doctors, nurses and administrators also understand the value of tight regulatory oversight in their field. How can they rectify this conflict?

Compliance will always be a part of healthcare

Compliance will always be a part of health care; providers must adapt with smarter asset management.

Intelligent asset management suites like IBM Maximo offer a solution to cut down paperwork and allow providers to focus on patients safely and cost-effectively. Take the FDA's mandatory reporting guidelines for medical devices. Providers are obligated to release reports to the agency and manufacturer should they suspect a death or injury was the direct result of malfunctioning equipment. With an asset management program recording all pertinent operational and maintenance-related data in a centralized database, health care providers save time filing reports. Better still, the reports contain accurate, actionable data so the government and medical device manufacturers can get to the heart of the matter before anyone else gets hurt.

Best of all, with a proactive maintenance program backing up the entire operation, fewer asset failures have the potential to cause damage in the first place, further reducing the administrative burdens tied to compliance and keeping patients safe.

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