David Braeutigam: Who Is Servicing the Non-Hospital AEDs?

For the majority of us who work in hospitals as biomedical equipment technicians or clinical engineers, the servicing of medical equipment is second nature. I assume most of us are also curious about the service and support of medical devices at hospitals other than our own. We probably all look at inspection stickers when we visit hospitals that are not serviced by our departments. My wife still gets frustrated when I check inspection stickers at “rival” hospitals.

I also wonder about the medical equipment that is outside of hospitals. Who is servicing that equipment? Several recent events made me question who oversees these devices, specifically automated external defibrillators or AEDs. Several years ago, we had a major hospital donor contact us about the AEDs that he kept in his houses and yachts around the world. Apparently, he was visited by a local fire department inspector who found his AEDs to have expired batteries and pacing pads. He was eventually sent to me, and we discussed the service of these devices. I provided him with operator manuals, sources to purchases batteries and pads online, and recommendations on how to routinely inspect the AEDs.

Not long after that event, I was at my local car dealership and I asked the service manager if I could look at the AEDs mounted proudly on the wall. Sure enough, the batteries and pacing pads had all expired. The AEDs would not have worked if they were needed. I gave the dealership the same recommendations I had given to our donor. I also visited the chief of the fire department in that city to see if he had any recommendations. He said he would send a message to a forum of fire chiefs to see if they could include AEDs in their routine inspections of businesses.

Soon after that, I visited a local high school to discuss training in the field of biomedical engineering. I again asked to view the AEDs, and I found they were also expired. Surely I thought, this is not an isolated event. I immediately contacted my fire chief to see what was being done in my home town. He assured me that all city-owned AEDs and defibrillators are contracted to the OEM for routine inspection. I asked him what about those not owned by the city? He did not have an answer.

My plea to the AAMI community is to get involved and ask questions of any business that owns an AED to make sure it is being properly maintained. I mentioned this concern to a local salesman of a major bed manufacturer. He said that he was a member of his city’s parks and recreation board and would bring this up.

CPR and AED Awareness Week is coming in June.  Now is a perfect time to make sure everyone is aware of the importance of not only having an AED accessible, but making sure the device will properly work if needed.

David Braeutigam, MBA, CHTM, CBET, is system director of healthcare technology management at Baylor Scott & White Health based in Dallas, TX. 

8 thoughts on “David Braeutigam: Who Is Servicing the Non-Hospital AEDs?

  1. It has been almost exactly 5 year since Dave first raised this issue. Now that FDA is about to force OEMs of AED accessories (including replacement parts in addition to pads and batteries) in Feb 2022, what has been done to alert the AED owners that they need to replace their “previously cleared” AEDs “with PMA-approved” AEDs soon, as it is likely that those accessories will no longer be available by this time next year? Due to the pandemic, most healthcare organizations and other owners of AEDs (schools, shopping malls, commercial buildings, etc.) are extremely strapped for money and, thus, unable to fund capital replacements. I am concerned that hundreds of thousand people who may suffer from sudden cardiac arrest will perish due to inoperable AEDs. Isn’t this part of our professional obligation to look beyond the healthcare organizations that employ us?

  2. I am formulating stories as I go about starting this challenge. It is amazing, however, so far, that places such as my church are up to date and aware of where the AED is and how to use; but the high schools have no idea how many they have or who checks them. An emergency unit brought one to a scene (about 4 hours away, told by a nurse whom I work with) and the emergency unit hooked it up and it failed. They had to continue CPR for another 30 minutes until they could get another one. I am highly motivated to this challenge and think this is a great contribution we can provide to, not only our employer, the community we live in. Great challenge! I accept.

  3. Dave, I have come back several times to read your blog post and it continues to haunt me. We need a campaign! Thank you for flagging this issue and challenging us all to do something about it. Keep at it – and I will, too!

  4. I have dealt with the AED issues pointed out by Dave and the challenges raised by Scott in my prior roles from both donor and recipient point of view. Donors must make sure that the ownership and, thus, maintenance responsibilities are transferred to recipients who can actually support those devices. Recipients must understand and sign off on those responsibilities. Otherwise, both are likely to be held liable when a person could not be saved due to discharged batteries or dry pads. This is actually a long-standing problem in foreign donations that motivated ACCE to create a donation guidelines almost 2 decades ago but now is coming back to industrialized nations. It is a good reminder that technology is not the solution but only a tool that needs to be well managed and used by appropriate persons in order to achieve its original goals. Good job everyone!

  5. Scot posted a good comment on liability. I am not concerned with the liability because I am recommending people do what the manufacturer states should be done on routine service of their AED. I have downloaded operators’ manuals and pointed those who have AEDs to sites to order pads and batteries. I also recommend you talk with your local fire chief and ask for help. I emailed the president of the Fire Chief Association a couple of weeks ago about this matter.

  6. After I read your blog post, I decided to ask a local pediatrician-friend to check her AED. Sure enough, one of the pads has expired and when I turned on the AED, it prompted that the batteries needed to be changed. All these items were ordered, online. One out of four AEDs fails to shock due to dead batteries or the electrodes have dried out. It is likely that these AEDs are the ones that are sitting idle someplace.

  7. As biomeds, can we legally and without liability, personally or to our employer, inspect and advise on things like this in our communities? Is this activity covered under the Good Samaritan law? Once upon a time, I did a lot of biomedical stuff for local physicians after work. In this day and age, can we still do this type of stuff?
    In recent times, I have helped out a couple old friend MDs in the health system I once worked, but told them I could not accept compensation of any kind due to the liability that would result. Who knows the “real deal” where extra curricular biomed work is concerned?

  8. Dave, I will take your challenge. I will even see if I can get my hospital to do some awareness education. Good points!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s