Susan Saldibar & Scott Fincher | 1 February, 2024
If It Ain't Broke: The Challenge of Outdated Hospital Systems
If you walk into any hospital that is more than a few years old, you are bound to find outdated systems. Yet many of them continue to be used, day in and day out, remaining untouched. They seem to run and run without a hiccup. Until one day they don’t. Proper maintenance programs can help with this but we know nothing lasts forever. When critical systems fail, many hospitals see their operations grind to a halt.
Operational technology and integrated hospital systems are key to efficiency. Systems that automate functions and streamline processes form a critical operational backbone of the hospital. They perform an ever widening range of functions from lighting, electrical and elevators to plumbing, HVACs, and pneumatic tube deliveries.
Technologies, such as business automation systems (BAS), provide an array of benefits, including improved energy efficiency, reduction of maintenance and operating costs, and increased productivity (Facilitiesnet).
Between the hardware and software components, operational technologies help ensure that hospitals are running efficiently and that those that rely upon shared information with other systems are connected. They also produce reports that can be used to gauge performance and fix issues before they become major problems.
Why Do Some Hospitals Neglect to Update Critical Systems?
Despite the critical nature of the services provided in hospitals, many of their platforms are not being properly maintained. Reasons for neglecting hospital system maintenance may include:
- Lack of on-site technical expertise to perform maintenance.
- Diminished budget for offsite contracting maintenance.
- Personnel turnover, resulting in loss of key knowledge of legacy hospital systems.
- Low priority assigned to maintaining working systems to make room for new initiatives.
- Thin profit margins which may limit the financial resources to support maintenance in areas such as business automation system initiatives (Health Facilities Management).
Taking the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality is risky and expensive. It is well established outside of hospital systems that a “well-oiled machine” runs much longer. Conversely, turning a blind eye to performing maintenance and upgrades to aging hospital systems is dangerous. Whether it’s an HVAC, lighting system, pneumatic tube system, or other building automation technology, this approach can end up costing hospitals thousands to millions of dollars when a system or software component fails because:
- The original supplier may no longer have the parts to fix legacy systems, which means you may need to buy a new system.
- Older software from one system may not be able to communicate with newer software from another system, resulting in a termination of the process.
- Operations will slow or stop, resulting in on-the-fly manual workarounds.
- Workflow is interrupted as key personnel are diverted to fill gaps.
- The quality of services is negatively impacted which in turn impacts patient care.
- The hospital is thrown into a reactive mode, necessitating paying for emergency dispatch of a technician and the expense of purchasing a new system they have not budgeted for.