Technology management at the North Bay Regional Health Center
Like many other hospitals in Canada, North Bay Hospital was faced with the challenge of upgrading its outdated equipment and its largely aging infrastructure on a tight budget. “Across Ontario, hospitals are under huge financial pressure,” says Paul Valenti, Manager of Purchasing and Contracts at North Bay. “We purchased new equipment when we moved into a new building in 2011, but due to the limited investment budget we were forced to keep it beyond its useful life.”
Technology is evolving at a rapid place, particularly in the healthcare sector. Where the lifetime of technology could once reach up to twelve years, it is now only five years. North Bay Hospital’s budget came under increased pressure as the switch to electronic patient records approached. “Many Canadian hospitals were having budget issues when it came to implementing electronic patient records,” says Guy Poirier, Head of Canadian Healthcare at CHG-MERIDIAN. “The four large hospitals in the northern region, of which North Bay is one, had to cover the bulk of the project’s funding at a cost of $120 million. It is almost impossible to find an additional $30 million in regions with only a very small population.”
In 2016, CHG-MERIDIAN embarked on an in-depth analysis of the medical and technical infrastructure at North Bay Hospital. Working closely with finance, operations, clinical teams, and medical staff, the company looked at the various equipment types in detail. “There was an active exchange of information about the estimated useful life of equipment, and about how maintenance costs for certain device categories, for example, will develop,” says Poirier.
This in-depth dialog played a key role in identifying the areas where change was needed most. It became clear that there was a requirement for reliable asset management that considers the entire lifecycle from procurement to potential remarketing. “This is where we were able to bring all of our expertise to bear. We also increased the customer’s trust in us by not merely introducing our own tesma technology management system but also testing the suitability of other asset management platforms on the market,” says Poirier. CHG-MERIDIAN was also able to apply its expertise in the implementation of tracking activities and the resulting process changes, and identified and recommended experts to assist with complex liability matters.
Using priority lists, CHG-MERIDIAN then worked with the finance and procurement departments and the clinical committees to determine which equipment should be financed in which way. Dividing the assets into different categories made it clearer which ones should be purchased and which should be leased. Poirier and his colleagues also carried out a lease-versus-buy analysis to calculate the expected leasing costs. After nine months, they prepared the request for proposal (RFP) for financing all of the devices and asked bidders to categorize these by their expected lifecycles.
Paul Valenti believes that the support from CHG-MERIDIAN has made North Bay Hospital much more flexible as well as providing greater transparency in asset procurement and management. When the healthcare technology comes to the end of its useful life, management now have the option to return it, upgrade it, or carry on using it. “CHG-MERIDIAN has given us the tools we need to calculate the costs at the end of the term. We can lease a piece of equipment for five years and decide at the end of the term whether to continue leasing it, to buy it, or to return it. This gives us far greater flexibility,” says Valenti. A further advantage he believes should not be underestimated is that all services and equipment are handled exclusively by the experts at CHG-MERIDIAN. “This has a positive impact on the price and avoids having to deal with ten different companies, invoice formats, and expiry dates. And we can build up a relationship,” he adds.
The management of technology over the entire lifecycle not only has monetary benefits but also increases – and this is the main objective of North Bay Hospital’s management team – the quality of care provided. Endoscopes are a good example: “Because we are now leasing our endoscopic equipment, we can replace it all in one go after trialing a new model, rather than buying just a few new devices every year. We are upgrading all of our equipment, which improves our ability to diagnose cancer, for example,” Valenti says with a smile.