Achieving Maximum Life Expectancy

by Anne Reed

The ultimate feel-good purchasing decision involves: Choosing a product wisely; maintaining it optimally; and meeting or exceeding maximum potential life expectancy. That involves a change in attitude. While most facilities have an “equipment care” program in place to ensure standard protocols are followed concerning handling and processing of instruments, a dedicated equipment preservation effort can have the most long-term impact. Follow this 19-point action plan:

1. Share your purpose with all those who handle equipment. The maximum potential should be a system-wide effort.

2. Buy quality equipment. The parts and materials are more durable.

3. Ensure staff follows manufacturer instructions for equipment usage. Instructions are not interchangeable from one OEM to another on similar items.

4. Ask manufacturers to define maximum life expectancy given normal usage and maintenance conditions. Share those expectations with staff and independent repair personnel.

5. Reevaluate your repair or operations budget to accommodate preventive maintenance.

6. Ensure Central Sterile personnel are continually educated so they don’t inadvertently cause preventable damage.

7. Serious damage can often be averted before it gives rise to a repair bill so high that one is faced with the repair/replace dilemma. A formal preventive maintenance program should be firmly in place that charges personnel with maintaining an item at optimum condition routinely.

8. Raise tolerance for the repair alternative. If your repaired item can give you identical performance expectations compared to a replacement, then the only difference would be the added expenditure for the replacement.

9. Don’t compare the repair cost for a high-quality instrument to the price of a new, but inferior substitute.

10. Explore repair alternatives. OEMs can only thrive by continued product sales, so their parameters for repair vs. replace may be somewhat biased. Most independents provide free repair estimates; therefore, ask an alternate repair source to inspect it.

11. Only use established repair companies with long-term track records in the industry. Some independent providers have the expertise to complete more sophisticated repairs, while others with minimal capabilities will tag the item “non-repairable” simply because they are ill-equipped or incapable. Improper repairs can reduce the operational life of your equipment.

12. Ensure that your repair company has an extensive parts and materials inventory and provides a written warranty.

13. Know the difference between an actual repair company and repair brokers who pick up your equipment and outsource it to a number of nameless repair shops with inconsistent results.

14. Understand that a “replacement” or “exchange” from the manufacturer may simply mean “refurbished,” in which you get an overhauled trade-in unit with an unknown service history.

15. Investigate suspected causes of repeated and indifferent abuse and misuse and institute educational or administrative strategies to neutralize the problem.

16. Keep a record of equipment purchase dates and the corresponding warranty periods to ensure you don’t pay for repairs unnecessarily.

17. Likewise, reputable repair vendors warranty their work; therefore, repairs and applicable warranties should also be tracked.

18. Understand that when a reputable repair company advises replacement, it is because the structural integrity of the unit has been so compromised that it is no longer in the best interest of the patient or facility to use it.

19. Include an expert instrument repair technician as a resource on your team. Free tray inspections can save your staff time and help identify pour processing and handling practices.

* * Reprinted with permission from Infection Control Today magazine.