Sean Loughlin: Big News for Medical Equipment Maintenance

You may not think “breaking news” on the Friday afternoon before Christmas, but that’s exactly what we faced yesterday thanks to an e-mail.

The e-mail came from a federal agency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and it contained a four-page memo that addressed one of the hottest issues for healthcare technology management departments: the question of how they maintain hospital equipment. Changing course from a position articulated two years ago, CMS on Friday announced that hospitals would have more flexibility in deviating from manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to the “maintenance, inspection, and testing frequency and activities” of medical equipment. There are some very important caveats and exceptions—among them, that any change must be documented and  “based on a risk-based assessment by qualified personnel”—but Friday’s announcement marked a clear change in direction. The 2011 memo (which was also issued in December) had significantly restricted the ability of hospitals to stray from manufacturer’s recommendations, setting off impassioned debates and discussions in HTM departments and healthcare organizations across the country.

In short, Friday’s memo was big news, and AAMI staff pulled together to write an article and share the information with members and interested parties.

Taking note of the exceptions and requirements detailed in the new CMS memo, AAMI President Mary Logan said the agency “appeared to listen to all of the input it received. Imaging manufacturers should be pleased with the exceptions, and the HTM community should be pleased with the recognition that a risk-based approach is appropriate.” One noteworthy detail was that CMS cited a standard—ANSI/AAMI EQ 56:1999/(R) 2008, Recommended Practice for a Medical Equipment Management Program—as a resource for hospitals.

What do you think about the new policy? Our article has more details about the announcement, and it contains a link to the CMS memo. We’ll be following this story and want to know how you think it will impact your organization and the maintenance of medical equipment in general.

Sean Loughlin is AAMI’s senior director of communications.

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