Hospital nurses are spending more and more time looking for missing mobile clinical equipment, according to a study done by GE Healthcare. The study also found healthcare organizations are spending an increasing amount of money on equipment that is going unused. “When we’re spending so much time looking for devices, we can’t do our job efficiently,” Sally, a nurse in northern Illinois, told me. Sally, who asked that I not use her last name, said her colleagues constantly search for items. “It can take a lot of time.”
According to the GE study, it takes a nurse on average more than 20 minutes a shift to locate missing devices. “(Nurses) need to service their patients,” said GE Healthcare Senior Consulting ManagerChristopher Mullins. “It’s not in their job description to find these pieces of equipment. Therefore, nurses are resorting to hoarding.”
The clinicians hide the equipment in order to prevent another department from taking it. “Instead of looking for it and wasting time, we’d hide it,” Nurse Sally said. “We knew where it would be so we could find it later.”
The problem, according to the study, is that there is plenty of equipment to go around. “It’s a phantom menace,” Mullins explained. “There’s a perceived lack of equipment. When the hospital prepares to purchase more equipment, they ask the nurses, ‘Do we have enough?’ They say ‘no’ because they don’t feel they do.” Thus, the hospitals buy more equipment and more than half of the mobile devices go unused.
Increasing healthcare budgets between 1996 and 2010, hospital costs have skyrocketed. “The number of clinical devices per bed increased by more than 60%,” said Ruslan Horblyuk, Director of Health Economics at GE Healthcare. “The service and maintenance cost per bed increased by 90%.” Costs go up while nurses search for missing devices. “Plus you’re trying to take care of patients at the same time,” said Nurse Sally. “That’s a problem.”