Medical equipment is not cheap. Did you know that you can prolong the life of your investment several years beyond the manufacturer's warranty by following a few basic steps? Most DME owners (that don't specialize in the care and maintenance of the equipment) have a difficult time getting more than two years out of specialty items like therapeutic air surfaces (air beds)? We get between five and 10 years of useful life from our equipment investments. You can do the same with three easy steps:
More often than not the manufacturer's reccomendations for equipment maintenance and cleaning is ignored altogether. Equipment is removed from a patient, given a cursory wipe down, and stuck into a smelly supply closet. Equipment placed on long-term patients is usually left alone until it breaks or the patient is finished with it.
Every piece of equipment should have an owner's manual with it. If your facility maintenance staff can build reminders into a calendar to clean and check filters, complete ES testing (if required), and maintain any seals you will be way ahead of the game. If your equipment is out of manufacturer's warranty it might not hurt to carefully open the case and clean out any accumulated dust bunnies. A lot of DME pulls in room air to perform therapy. Items such as air bed control units, concentrators, and negative pressure pumps draw room air in through filters. Over time, tiny particulates can make their way through the filter and build up inside the box. Just be careful about using cleaning agents inside these units. There are often sensitive electronics that could be ruined if they get wet. We use a damp cloth and pressurized air. If you aren't sure just call your local friendly DME partner for guidance.
This one is tricky. It's one thing to track rental DME when your provider provides handy little reports. It's completely different when you are trying to track your facility owned DME. At the very least it's a good idea to keep a spreadsheet that includes equipment type, the patient's name and room number, and the date the equipment went on. If you review this weekly it will help you to make sure that each patient has the appropriate equipment, and you don't have to scramble when a new admit comes in. Here are some common DME errors we see:
- Wrong equipment for the wron patient. We see bariatric bed frames placed under 125 lb. patients all the time. The reason? it was in the room when the patient admitted.
- Another common example is a high end therapeutic support surface (ALAL) used for a patient that just needs prevention.
- Components of the DME are seperated after removing from the patient room. AC cords end up in soiled utility rooms while the control unit sits in the facility closet, and the air mattress gets moved to a utility closet. Keep a single location for all of your DME, and train your staff on how to break it down and store it
Know the Rules
There are legal requirements associated with DME as well. Most accreditation bodies and some State Survey Boards require equipment files that include the manual, initial date of purchase, maintenance and repair details, ES testing logs, and sometimes a full patient history. We have sent several equipment history files out to facilities during their visit by the survey fairies.