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Podcast: Agiliti Talks Data-Driven Endoscope Repair

As flexible endoscopes become more complex, they can be a challenging (and costly) device to maintain and repair. Jake McHugh, Process Improvement Auditor at Agiliti, joined the hosts of the Beyond Clean podcast to talk about how hospitals can use data-driven equipment management processes to gain visibility into the details and costs of scope repair.  

The “black hole” of scope repair demands

Jake McHugh portrait

In the episode, McHugh started by acknowledging how technologically complex scopes are changing the math on repairs: “What used to be a quick, in-house fix—at most a couple hours or a couple hundred dollars, now requires scopes to be sent out to third parties,” he said. “A hospital might be looking at thousands of dollars to repair just one scope.”

However, the high demand for the scopes can outweigh the cost of repairs, especially when physicians strongly prefer specific scopes for procedures. As a result, materials management and supply chain departments often find themselves stuck with a “just get it done” mentality to prevent availability issues and ensure physician satisfaction.

Over time, this approach can feel like money sent down a black hole, as repair volumes stay high without understanding the source of the contributing issues—whether it is how providers or staff handle the devices, how the devices are stored, or some other gap in the process.

Identifying scope repair trends beyond normal wear and tear

Modern technology systems can help hospitals dig out of this black hole by allowing them to scan devices throughout the equipment use, maintenance and repair lifecycle—capturing a tremendous volume of data points—reliably and accurately.

“This is so critical because damage can occur at any point in that lifecycle,” said McHugh. “When you’re scanning devices at all points, you know how long they’ve been out, what they’ve been used for,” and you can use this information to do a root-cause analysis when needed.

Beyond addressing obvious gaps or breakdowns in scope maintenance and repair, logging a comprehensive digital audit trail allows hospitals to see concerning trends as they start to emerge. Moreover, the data helps department leaders differentiate misuse and abuse from normal wear and tear on the scopes.

“These scopes get used a lot, so we expect things to wear out over time,” McHugh said. “But the data lets us see trends in what’s considered excessive damage, so we can do root cause analysis to see where issues are coming from—and then try to correct them.”

Critically, data-driven equipment management is not a challenge that rests solely on the shoulders of the materials management or supply chain department. Vendors should be true partners with departments to help them understand what’s going on with their repairs, McHugh said.

Repair vendors may notice a trend before the hospital—and should be sharing that information electronically and helping to educate/remediate with providers and techs. In other words, your repair vendor should be using its digital platform to track repair activities—and should be able to share the actual data and reports. Most importantly, your repair vendor must make the reports actionable and usable.

Use the Data. Celebrate Success.

Devices may get more complex, but the irony is that solutions to control repair costs can be pretty simple. “A lot of it comes down to the basics: better containers for scopes, more care when processing scopes in sinks,” said Hughes, “But the data helps us see where those basics are breaking down.”

Small changes can have big impacts. A single scope repair can now run $5,000-$10,000. Multiplied by dozens of scopes repaired every month, “That’s a pretty incredible financial burden that can be reduced or eliminated—often without a ton of effort,” Hughes said. “Hospitals might be looking at $100k, $200k, $300k in annual savings.”

But those simple changes primarily come down to the providers and the technicians on the frontline—and the staff using and handling the scopes. In order to address the root cause of the damage and decrease the associated repair costs, hospitals should:

  • Work with their repair vendors to review the data and identify gaps
  • Share data with technicians and those who handle scopes so they can see where those common sources of damage and premature wear starts
  • Provide education (this is essential!) to address breakdowns and prevent future damage

However, McHugh also stressed that hospitals also need to focus on celebrating successes. Hospitals can use equipment repair data to recognize the repairs their techs are avoiding—and celebrate their critical role in keeping the hospital functioning and patient care moving.

Hospitals can also celebrate the improvements made on identified issues, highlighting the objective proof of that success. “Data can impact culture in a big way,” said Hughes, “It lets you show people that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves, and that’s inspiring.”

You can listen to the entire episode here.

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