The COVID-19 pandemic placed immense pressure on medical field service companies to ramp up their services in response to overwhelming demands. The focus on increasing supplies of ventilators, for one, meant that there’d be far more device usage, leading to a greater need for maintenance and repairs. Field service companies had to make fast and deliberate business decisions with little time to assess how these decisions would affect return on investment (ROI) in the long run. As healthcare companies slowly recover from the impact of the pandemic, it’s time to examine how these decisions can continue to be beneficial in the future by addressing common factors that lead to margin erosion in medical field service.
A white paper from Velosio notes automating processes, documenting out-of-scope work, and increasing project visibility as key improvements in preventing margin erosion. In field service, however, many processes, including scheduling, supply, and documentation, are often reliant upon multiple parties. In addition, some field service companies still rely on Excel and even sticky notes to manage and document their processes. This increases chances of incorrect rates, inconsistent language, inaccurate projections on budgets, and multiple trips to worksites.
It can also be difficult to access manuals, parts, and information needed to complete repairs on medical devices. This means that medical field service technicians often rely on consultations with experts to get the solutions they need to perform repairs. The ability to quickly seek and share information with other professionals is thus very important to repairing medical equipment, which must often be done against the benefit of time.
The pandemic necessitated the swift implementation of contactless solutions for many medical field service companies. Because field service technicians don’t have the option to work remotely, companies had to create new processes to limit interactions where they could. Moreover, because field service technicians are performing repairs, maintenance, and installations on-site in vulnerable spaces, companies must prioritize the safety of technicians as well as the medical providers and patients that they are servicing.
Fortunately, contactless solutions have set a foundation that can provide long-term opportunities for field service companies. A serious investment in mobile devices opens the door to many forms of remote communication. For example, mobile software such as Remote Assist make it possible for technicians to share live videos for troubleshooting in a real-time chat feature. A work order that might have previously required multiple on-site field technicians and experts can be done with just one field technician, saving time and money on diagnostic trips and work handoffs.
In addition, modern apps are often part of larger software suites and ERP solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service, where data and communications collected on mobile devices can be integrated automatically to a company’s internal database and CRM. This reduces the risk of error as well as duplicate work. This is bolstered when certain apps also allow technicians to extract readings and measurements directly into their devices.
A fully automated, digitally managed medical field service company could work like this: If a customer has trouble with a medical care product, they can submit a ticket. The system could automatically assign the ticket to the most appropriate technician based on data that tracks availability, location, and expertise. Once on the site, the technician can live-troubleshoot with other experts through an AR data layer on their mobile device. The technician can also easily provision tools or parts from warehousing inventory that’s integrated right into the same system. All of these functions exist in a single app, and all data is saved to the same ERP solution, so that AI technology can continually improve processes along the way.
Prior to the pandemic, many field service companies were behind in modernizing. However, it seems that pivoting to digital solutions will ultimately reduce costs rather than add them. As it turns out, many changes necessitated by the pandemic to keep businesses running also came with long-term benefits.
To read more about how AI and IoT innovations in field service can help prevent margin erosion in the medical supply chain, download the Essential Guide for the IoT Revolution in Field Service Management here.