CMS Meets With Joint Commission on Preventive Maintenance Issue

Officials with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services met with representatives of The Joint Commission earlier this month to discuss the federal agency’s directive on maintenance schedules for medical equipment.

Few details have been publicly released about the April 9 meeting, held in Baltimore, MD, but George Mills, head of the commission’s Engineering Department, said that it went well and that further discussions were likely.  

The meeting was requested by the commission and members of the healthcare technology management (HTM) community, following a December memo from CMS that instructed hospitals to follow manufacturer’s preventive maintenance (PM) recommendations for critical equipment. A hospital, according to CMS, can alter the schedule for noncritical equipment, but only after it amasses sufficient maintenance history on the device.

The directive forbids any alternatives to the manufacturer’s methods for maintaining equipment, “even if the hospitals alter the frequency of maintenance activities.” 

CMS did clarify in the meeting with Mills that tools and software that are equivalent to manufacturers may be used for testing, inspection, and maintenance.

Many HTM professionals reacted with dismay to the memo, saying it failed to recognize that many individual hospitals and departments have devised their own effective PM strategies. Strictly adhering to manufacturers’ recommendations, many argued, would prove costly and time consuming, without doing anything to improve patient safety.

At the same time, some professionals say the memo underscores the need for the field to prove, through an evidence-based approach, that there is a better way to approach the issue of PM.

Posted: April 20, 2012