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IHS issues new policy ensuring modern, functional medical equipment

by Mary Smith, Principal Deputy Director, IHS

Expanding efforts to ensure medical equipment used at IHS facilities is up to date, properly maintained, and reliable, IHS has established a new policy which standardizes and clarifies the minimum standards for medical equipment management, purchase, maintenance, and replacement.

My expectations for Headquarters, Area Offices, and Service Units are that they effectively manage the medical equipment program and take proactive steps to identify and mitigate risks. Medical equipment is a vital component in the delivery of quality health care. By proactively planning and managing medical equipment to accepted standards, IHS will create a strong foundation for the delivery of high quality health care to the Native American community.

Under the new policy, medical equipment should be replaced at the end of its useful life. Equipment useful life tables, such as the American Hospital Association Estimated Useful Lives of Depreciable Hospital Assets, estimate the productive period of time before health care capital assets become technically or commercially obsolete. IHS will use these resources as operating standards for when to replace medical equipment.

Additionally, the new policy makes clear that equipment should be replaced when it no longer meets safety standards, when it is more economically and operationally effective to replace the equipment than repair it, when an item of equipment has a high incidence of breakdowns and when equipment with newer technology can offer better quality health care.

We use a series of tools to identify equipment that needs to be replaced, including an IHS-standardized computerized maintenance management system to inventory and track maintenance and repair of medical equipment. We also use Emergency Care Research Institute’s Select Plus service which provides medical device pre-purchase evaluations and medical device alert recalls, hazards, and product safety issues.  These systems allow us to automatically identify medical device safety and recall issues.

Providing our patients with quality health care is of paramount importance. Prudent management of medical equipment will provide our clinicians with appropriate tools to do their jobs and help assure our patients receive the best health care we can provide. Together, these measures will lead to better efficiency, better care, and ultimately better outcomes.

Ms. Smith, a member of the Cherokee Nation, leads IHS, a nationwide health care delivery program responsible for providing preventive, curative and community health care to approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Mary Smith, Principal Deputy Director, IHS