Preventive Maintenance: Take Advantage of Downtime in the Waning Days of COVID

Posted February 04, 2021 by Technical Prospects

It’s become a common topic of conversation within the medical imaging community recently: the upcoming surge in diagnostic procedures due to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Unlike past upswings in healthcare utilization, we’ve seen this one coming for a long time, and there’s been ample opportunity to mitigate the risks of lost revenue and delayed patient care due to equipment downtime. Smart imaging engineers and healthcare administrators have been preparing for the added wear and tear on their equipment in this calm before the storm. Are you one of them?

Post-COVID Preparedness Checklist for Medical Imaging Professionals

In recent blog posts, we’ve outlined four key areas where you can get ready for the anticipated upswing in imaging procedures: maintenance personnel, spare parts, parts/service providers, and breakdown prevention. In this article, we’ll dive more deeply into one last area: preventive maintenance (PM). If your organization hasn’t already made the following preparations, now is the time.

  • Maintenance PersonnelUptrain existing BMETs to ensure the availability of skilled engineers to maintain your imaging equipment.
  • Spare Parts – Create an inhouse inventory of the spare parts most likely to fail on your particular scanner model(s).
  • Parts/Service Providers – Evaluate the customer service and post-COVID preparedness of your current parts and services provider(s). If you’re reliant on OEM service options, establish a contingency plan with an ISO in advance.
  • Breakdown Prevention – Install an MRI remote monitoring system like daVinci’s Cryogen Management System to be alerted of a system failure before it becomes catastrophic.
  • Preventive Maintenance – Perform as much PM as possible now, before the surge in usage begins. Consider performing normally infrequent PM in advance of its recommended interval.

In the coming months, the normal landscape of scanner service and parts availability could change drastically. Since several of the items on this checklist may become prerequisites for others, the only way to be truly prepared is to make sure you’re covered in all five areas. For example, having a newly-trained inhouse engineer available to repair an inoperable scanner on a moment’s notice is pointless if a desperately needed part is unavailable. Similarly, an alarm from a remote monitoring system will go unanswered if there’s nobody available to discover the source and address the problem.

Despite preventive maintenance being the final item on our list, it is arguably the most important in preventing unnecessary downtime. Imaging equipment that is well-maintained, in top-notch condition, and running optimally is less prone to needing urgent repairs and the rush delivery of an obscure part. A remote monitoring system, while still highly recommended, becomes a precautionary measure instead of a vital safety feature.

Preventive Maintenance Done Right

Proper preventive maintenance could keep your life-saving, revenue-generating medical device from turning into a very expensive, oversized paperweight. Approach PM as if you are looking for existing issues, rather than simply conducting a general review of the system. In the process, you’ll not only keep your equipment running at a higher level, you’re also more likely to identify areas that are beginning to deteriorate or show unusual wear. By diagnosing the cause early, you can prevent minor problems from becoming costly downtime.

Although each system has its own preventive maintenance specifications, there are certain PM tasks common across all brands and models of MRI equipment, like checking for leaks and replacing worn components. In addition, good cleaning during preventive maintenance ensures longevity of the system and makes it easier to spot potential problems. To help you get the job done, we offer CT preventive maintenance kits with all the supplies you’ll need.

Parts that commonly need replacement during PM include fans, air filters, overvoltage protection in the power cabinet, and brushes. OEMs typically recommend biannual replacement of batteries, like those found in uninterruptable power supplies and used for the computer BIOS, but it may be wise to replace these prior to the anticipated rise in usage regardless of their age.

During PM is a also good time for setting restore points and running backups for critical data, hardware, and software, as well as performing updates to the operating system and antivirus protection.

Running quality control (QC) tests upon completion of PM is vital to prevent improper doses of radiation and to ensure the system is operating correctly. Follow OEM guidelines and use manufacturer-provided phantoms for conducting test scans. Fine tune the system as needed and generate a field service report (FSR). This is a comprehensive report detailing what you did to the system. It documents adherence to OEM guidelines and tracks issues that may need to be addressed, including the identification of failing parts.

Move PM to the Top of Your List and Keep Your Medical Imaging Equipment Running

Preventive maintenance often gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list by more urgent repairs or other pressing priorities. Under normal circumstances, this might be acceptable for the short term, especially in the case of newer equipment. However, with predictions of an unprecedented increase in equipment utilization and the potential for shortages of both parts and repair personnel, this is not the time to gamble with the well-being of your imaging system(s). Performing PM now, while utilization is low, is the best way to keep scanners running in peak condition and prevent unscheduled downtime, delays in patient diagnostic procedures, and untold lost revenue for your organization.