When it Comes to Servicing Medical Devices, is There a “Silver Bullet”?

medical device manufacturing

The demands placed on the medical device field service industry are growing. New challenges emerge as the market grows increasingly competitive, a generation of technicians is retiring, new regulations are ushered in, and medical equipment grows more complex. The FDA, medical facilities, medical staff and patients are all calling upon service organizations to do more.

The question is how can medical device service organizations achieve compliance, set themselves apart from the competition, and provide support for the new generation of technicians, all while ensuring they are achieving maximum efficiency in the field?

Knowledge Management as the One Stop Source for Service Excellence

Increasingly, field service organizations are turning to knowledge management technology as the answer to their woes. It’s easy to see why: field service organizations that leverage knowledge management tools outperform their peers in key metrics such as SLA compliance and first-time fix rates. For medical staff and patients, this means shorter equipment downtimes and avoiding long wait times or delayed treatments. 

Minimizing fix times and increasing customer satisfaction and retention are not the only benefits from implementing knowledge management. As every medical equipment company knows, the strict regulations and legal requirements employed by the FDA and MHRA that organizations are required to meet. Knowledge management helps organizations meet these strict regulations by ensuring installation and servicing documentation are available at all locations worldwide, and out of date documents are immediately removed to prevent unintended use.

Knowledge Loss and an Aging Workforce

In addition, knowledge management can capture the years of experience and expertise that an aging field service technician has built up over their career. In fact, knowledge management is the ONLY solution that will ensure the new generation has access to the knowledge and experiences of their predecessors, making it the most effective training tool an organization can have in its arsenal.

So, is knowledge management the magic “silver bullet” for field service excellence. Yes and no. It does come closer than any other tool to being a cure-all for what ails field service organizations. However, knowledge management is not a one-size-fits-all solution and organizations must ensure that it is useful and accessible to the entire field service team.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Knowledge Management

According to a report released by Worldwide Business Research (WBR), 42% of organizations said the ability to empower technicians with access to specialized information is among the top challenges they face. This means that field service technicians have trouble getting access to the information they need to do their job efficiently and safely.

True Mobility is Key

Any technicians will tell you that connectivity is unreliable or unavailable while on site, particularly in locations such as hospitals and medical facilities. Because of this, many mobile knowledge solutions fail because they do not operate if they lose connection. When investing in a knowledge management system, an essential feature is that it is also available offline to ensure that your techs can access the information they need at the point of service, whether or not they’re able to connect to the internet.

Update, Update, Update

Having to continuously update, optimize and remove outdated information is a herculean task. However, it’s also extremely important not only to a technician’s job, but also in order to maintain compliance and help ensure patient safety.  A knowledge management system must have the capability to be updated frequently so technicians are getting the most current and reliable information available when on site.

Accessible, Searchable and Easy to Use

Any field service company that has been around for a few years will have an extensive amount of disparate documents, part lists, exploded diagrams, databases and product images totalling hundreds (even thousands!) of pages. Many companies attempt to remedy this issue by gathering as much of the data as they can and making it available to technicians in the form of PDFs.

However, the technician still has to search through this information to find what they want, often resulting in wasted time on site or repeat fixes. Technicians must be able to quickly find the information they need. If they can’t, then they aren’t going to use the knowledge base and all the added benefits mentioned above go out the window.

Auditability

Audits are an essential part of the medical device industry. Companies need to know (and report) who has access to what and when, and their knowledge management system should be able to support them in this. For example, if there’s an important safety notice or update to a service manual, has it been read and accepted by the service tech? If so, is the organization able to provide evidence of this? By creating audit trails and collecting the records in a centralized location will keep everything easily accessible and transparent for review.

From Nice-to-Have to Necessity

As the medical device industry continues to evolve and customer expectations rise, knowledge management will be essential to tackling all workforce, competitive and regulatory challenges and delivering on customer and patient expectations. However, for it to truly be the field service “Silver Bullet”, organizations must ensure it is offline-capable, up-to-date and a useful tool that technicians will want to use.